Panama Maritime XIII - IMO objectives for 2017

Panama Maritime XIII
Opening remarks
IMO objectives for 2017
By Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General
12 March 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

As events all over the world in recent times have emphasized so strongly, these are, indeed, highly uncertain times.

The shipping industry is searching for ways to prosper in the current climate. But perhaps the only real certainty is that the way ahead will be challenging. We all know that shipping is a cyclical industry, but today it is under greater commercial pressure than it has been for a very long time. And, while some sectors have been hit harder than others, the overall picture has not been good.

Of course, IMO does not get involved in the economic or business side of shipping. Our mission is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping. And we do this in two ways. First, we develop and adopt a global regulatory regime for shipping that embraces the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of pollution from ships.

And, second, we back this up with an extensive programme of technical assistance and capacity building, to ensure that, once adopted, the standards can be implemented evenly and effectively.

It is this framework of IMO standards and regulations that enables shipping to operate safely, securely, cleanly and efficiently.

Why is it so important for shipping to be regulated globally? Because global regulations apply equally to all participants. They do not allow anyone to gain an advantage either by cutting corners or by imposing unilateral requirements. They create a level playing field. And, perhaps most importantly, they ensure that ships have to comply with the same rules and technical standards wherever in the world they operate and regardless of which flag they fly.

These are important principles. Everybody suffers if they are undermined, not just the shipping industry but the billions of people all over the world who depend on it.

Perhaps the fundamental challenge that shipping faces today is to remain sustainable while meeting the increasingly stringent demands of global society in terms of safety and environmental performance.

The world is no longer prepared to accept services or industries that are simply cost-effective. We now demand them to be safe, green and clean, as well as efficient.

Through IMO, governments have sought to ensure that shipping responds to this challenge. And the significant improvements in casualty and pollution figures from ships over several decades clearly show that we have achieved considerable success in this regard. Yet, still, we seek further improvements.

And, just as the shipping industry needs to plan for its own sustainable future, so must IMO itself have a forward-looking strategy to prepare for the challenges that it will face in the coming years.

To make sure we have this, an important strategic planning exercise is currently taking place within IMO. The Organization is developing a new strategic framework for the 2018-2023 period, based on an inclusive process.

At the moment, a number of specific strategic directions for the Organization have been identified. 

The first is improving implementation. IMO has developed more than 50 international treaties and related standards. But the full benefits of this extensive body of international law can only be realized if their provisions are effectively, efficiently and consistently implemented and enforced. More than that, a lack of uniform implementation prevents a level playing field and contributes to market distortions.

It is the Member States, supported by the industry, who are ultimately responsible for implementing IMO measures. While congratulating Panama on the 100th anniversary of its ship registry, let me also take the opportunity to stress once again that all States, and in particular those with the large registries, have an obligation to ratify and implement the international treaty instruments that are adopted as IMO conventions.

A second major priority we will be dealing with is new technology, which will undoubtedly have a transforming impact on all our lives in the coming years. IMO's regulatory framework has to continuously adapt to new technologies that will significantly affect shipping. New technologies have already brought significant changes in the way ships are designed, constructed and operated, impacting personnel, both on board and ashore. In the future, I expect technology will create a more interconnected and efficient industry, more closely integrated with the whole global supply chain.

But technological advances present challenges as well as opportunities, so their introduction into the regulatory framework needs to be considered carefully. We need to balance the benefits against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on international trade, the potential costs to the industry and, not least, their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore.

Responding to climate change will continue to be a vital strategic direction for the Organization. This is one of the greatest challenges of our era and one which we have been tackling for some time. In its role as the global regulator of international shipping, IMO will continue to develop appropriate, ambitious and realistic solutions to minimize shipping’s contribution to air pollution and its impact on climate change.

We will also continue to engage in ocean governance, and by this I mean the processes and mechanisms by which the use of the oceans and their resources are regulated and controlled.

The so-called ‘blue economy’ is a very sizeable and growing industrial sector. In Panama, you know this very well, as the expanded ship canal continues to set new standards in terms of transits, ships sizes and revenues.

But the success and growth of the blue economy also has the potential to threaten the integrity of the very element that sustains it and supports it – the sea. The global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale. And conflicts in the use of ocean space and resources among the various stakeholders are increasing.

To be sustainable, human activities have to be balanced with the oceans’ capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term. A major part of IMO’s role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting that delicate balance.

A further strategic goal will be to help international shipping operate more effectively from an administrative perspective. By this, we mean addressing things like arrival and departure formalities, documentation and certification, and generally reducing the administrative burdens that surround ship operation. And, again, we want to make sure that technology is employed in the best possible way to achieve this.

We also want to focus on improving the actual process of developing regulations. And we want to do this so we can make them more effective. So we’ll be looking at gathering more data, and then being better and smarter at using it when we make decisions. We’ll be looking at getting better feedback from Member States and the industry and improving the way we learn from experience and feed those lessons back into the regulatory process.

Finally, we plan to increase the overall effectiveness of IMO, and in this I include the Member states, NGOs, donors, the Secretariat – indeed all the many stakeholders in the Organization as a whole. We want to make sure we use our resources as effectively as possible, implement best working practices, and strengthen the linkages and the bonds that already exist between us.

Ladies and gentlemen, our strategic directions for the future are designed to build on our strong record of success to date. 

For IMO, 2016 was another year of considerable progress on many key areas of our work. Among the highlights were the agreement on the earlier of two date options for a global reduction in the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil; adopting a mandatory requirement for ships to collect and report data on the fuel they use, and approving a road map to develop a comprehensive strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships. 2016 was also the year when ratifications of the Ballast Water Management Convention triggered the entry into force of that important instrument later this year.

If properly implemented and built upon, all these measures will have a considerable positive effect on the environment, the ocean and human health.

Looking ahead, in 2017 we will continue to pursue these goals, alongside the rest of our mandate which embraces safety, security and efficiency in shipping. I am particularly keen, this year, to highlight the importance of ‘joined-up’ maritime development across all sectors and how this can reap great benefits in terms of development, especially in the context of the global Sustainable Development Goals.

With this in mind, our theme for this year is “connecting ships, ports and people” and we will be using it as an opportunity to highlight the value of integration in the maritime and logistics sectors – both from a policy and a practical perspective. IMO’s role as the global regulator of the shipping industry can enhance this integration as consistent, uniform regulation facilitates the free flow of commerce.

Finding consensus on these and other issues, through a process of discussion among all stakeholders, is one of the great strengths of IMO. The various efforts and initiatives underway at IMO in these areas will benefit people all over the world and help ensure that shipping can play its part in delivering the sustainable development that is essential to our future.

Thank you