Business Forum, Vladivostock, Russian Federation - main IMO issues

Business Forum
Vladivostok, Russian Federation, 18 September 2017
General welcome address on main IMO issues
By Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today and I am grateful to my hosts, the Government of the Russian Federation, for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you before you begin this business forum.

My brief was a very open one – namely, to give a general address on the main IMO issues of the moment. For me, that presents a welcome opportunity to step back from the detail of IMO’s work and look at it from a wider perspective.

One of the most important things to always bear in mind is that billions of people all over the world rely on shipping in their everyday lives. As the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient way to carry goods, shipping forms the backbone of world trade.

Shipping is, therefore, an essential component of future sustainable economic growth. But, at the same time, shipping itself needs to be sustainable – and this means shipping activities have to be balanced with the oceans' capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term.

This is where IMO comes in. A key role for IMO is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy but without upsetting that delicate balance.

The framework of global standards and regulations, developed by governments at IMO, covers all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal. IMO regulations and technical standards have laid the foundation for shipping to become progressively safer, more efficient, cleaner and greener. Statistics do not lie in this respect.

In the last few years, IMO’s environmental achievements have been under particular scrutiny – and I believe the accomplishments are strong.

Consider our work on reducing emissions from ships, for example. IMO has developed and adopted a raft of measures designed to control harmful emissions from the shipping sector. Thanks to IMO, international shipping was the first industry to be subject to global, mandatory, energy-efficiency measures designed to address greenhouse gas emissions.

But the work has continued and steps are being taken for further measures to be considered. The mandatory collection and reporting of fuel-oil consumption data for ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above will provide a firm statistical basis for an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate at IMO. And IMO Member States have told the world they will produce a comprehensive strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships, beginning with an initial strategy to be adopted next year.

The IMO Member States' decision to confirm 2020 as the implementation date for the compulsory reduction in the sulphur content of ships' fuel-oil, globally is an excellent example of IMO's regulatory work having a profound and beneficial impact far beyond the shipping industry.

Moving to ballast water management, the entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention earlier this month is another important step forward. Now, all ships engaged in international trade must exchange or treat ballast water on every voyage – which means a problem that has long been identified as one of the major global threats to the marine environment is now being actively addressed.

Greenhouse gas emissions, the sulphur content of ships’ fuel and ballast water management are just three recent examples of how IMO is responding to today’s challenges. It is important to highlight involvement and our leadership role in several projects like GloMEEP, GloFouling and the GMN initiative - all designed to help countries, particularly in the developing world, to build the capacity to tackle these vital issues for themselves; providing tangible results of our supporting role to the appropriate implementation to the standards adopted by the Organization

Looking ahead, technology and the use of data hold the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. Thanks to new technology emerging in so many areas – such as fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction, shipping is entering a new era.

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.

So how we incorporate new technology into the regulatory framework is a key issue for IMO. On the agenda of the Maritime Safety Committee, for example, you will find future-orientated items such as cyber security, e-navigation, modernizing maritime distress and safety communications as well as the rapidly emerging prospect of autonomous vessels. It is absolutely right that IMO should take a proactive and leading role in these issues. IMO is the only forum where such issues can be fully discussed, and aired, and where the appropriate actions can then be taken.

IMO provides a tangible focus for development of innovative, game-changing technical solutions for shipping. There is a long history of new technologies bringing significant beneficial changes in the way ships are designed, constructed and operated in direct response to IMO regulations. We call this the regulatory imperative – and it represents a vital contribution, not only for shipping but also for the billions of people who rely on it.

All the IMO States, including the Russian Federation, and all the NGOs and IGOs in consultative states are part of that process and their collective input is what makes IMO so unique. Next year we celebrate IMO’s 70th anniversary – and I look forward to the IMO spirit of cooperation lasting long into the future and continuing to both reflect, and drive, improvements and enhancements in the shipping world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you.