Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE), 8th session, 28 February-4 March 2022 (opening remarks)


(28 February to 4 March 2022)

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, observers, good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. I am pleased to welcome you all to the eighth session of the Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment.

I particularly welcome those delegates who are participating in a meeting of the SSE Sub-Committee for the first time.

As you are all aware, the global maritime community is seriously concerned about the impact on shipping operation, safety of ships and welfare of seafarers in the wake of the security situation in the Ukraine.

Ships, seafarers and port workers engaged in legitimate trade should not be adversely impacted by this growing crisis. Shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis.

I strongly urge all Member States to take necessary steps to ensure the protection of seafarers and vessels bearing in mind the contribution by the shipping industry and seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to the post COVID-19 recovery of the global economy.

In this connection I have set up an internal emergency task force to monitor the situation and advice accordingly. The coordinator of the Task Force is Ms. Heike Deggim, the Director of the Maritime Safety Division supported by my Special Advisor for Maritime Security, Mr. Peter Adams who will be the focal point for the collection of relevant information. I encourage Member States to share relevant information with the focal point. 

I would also like to express my deep concern regarding the incident involving the fire onboard the ro-ro Euroferry Olympia, on 18 February, near the Island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, while en route from Greece to Italy.

I wholeheartedly appreciate the efforts of the search and rescue authorities of Greece, as well as near-by merchant ships, for the rescue of 281 persons. We understand that there are 8 confirmed fatalities and that 3 persons are still missing. Our thoughts and condolences are with the families of the deceased and those still missing.

We continue to closely monitor any further developments and I look forward to receiving the investigation report into this incident in due course.

With regard to the fire on the car carrier Felicity Ace, thankfully, there were no casualties reported.

These two serious fire incidents again demonstrate the importance of your work on the fire safety of merchant ships. Although we still do not know the root causes of these incidents, I am pleased to note that you will be addressing the fire safety of ro-ro passenger ships at this session. In the meantime, I am looking forward to receiving the relevant investigation reports to see what lessons can be learned.

Distinguished delegates,

Despite the ongoing pandemic and the challenging circumstances, the work of the Organization has continued in a commendable fashion in order to overcome challenges through close collaboration by the stakeholders in the industry.

I sincerely hope that the international community, and shipping in particular, will keep up the ongoing good cooperation and remain robust after almost two years of extraordinary circumstances.  

We must keep up our intensive efforts to support seafarers by facilitating crew change to ensure their access to work as well as repatriation and recognizing them as the essential key workers they are, ensuring the continuity of the global supply chains.

 You are all aware that IMO actively pursues the transition of the shipping sector into a sustainable greener future, showcasing maritime innovation, research and development, as well as the demonstration and deployment of new technologies.

The commitment of the Organization to sustainable shipping is reflected in this year's World Maritime Theme: "New technologies for greener shipping".

The theme will allow for a range of activities to delve into specific topics related to the promotion of innovation and the uptake of new technologies to support the transition of the maritime sector to a greener future. It will focus on the importance of clean maritime transport and also the need to build back better and greener in a post-pandemic world.

Distinguished delegates,

It has been two years since the last session of your Sub-Committee in March 2020. I am pleased to note that you have been taking proactive action to enable the smooth continuation of your work through pragmatic working arrangements for the four correspondence groups which have continued their considerations throughout this period.

Regarding the business at hand for the week ahead, your Sub-Committee has, as usual, an ambitious agenda. You are expected to complete the work on a number of important items.

As mentioned before, this includes the finalization of the review of SOLAS chapter II‑2 and associated codes to minimize the incidence and consequences of ro-ro passenger ship fires, as well as draft amendments to the LSA Code and associated instruments with respect to new ventilation requirements for survival craft to increase the safety and comfort level of survivors in the case of an accident. While I understand that some challenges remain for which solutions need to be found, I am confident that these issues can be solved amicably so that the relevant amendments can enter into force in a timely manner.

Other matters that await completion at this session are the draft guidelines for anchor handling winches, in order to complement the associated draft SOLAS regulations; as well as the draft guidelines for lifting appliances, which have already been agreed in principle by the Committee.

I urge your Sub-Committee to make all efforts to complete the whole work package, which has been under consideration since 2011, at this session.

Other important work items that are expected to be completed during this week include:

  • the development of SOLAS amendments addressing fire protection of control stations on cargo ships;

  • the development of provisions to prohibit the use of fire-fighting foams containing PFOS (perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid); and

  • the revision of the guidelines for the approval of fixed dry chemical powder fire-extinguishing systems for the protection of ships carrying liquefied gases.

I am sure that with the usual spirit of cooperation you will be bringing the work on these matters to a successful conclusion.

Work will continue on a number of other important matters, such as the revision of SOLAS chapter III and the LSA Code to address gaps and inconsistencies, based on a goal-based approach, as well as the revision of the Code of Safety for Diving Systems to enhance the safety of divers and hyperbaric evacuation systems by updating the Code in line with current industry best practices.

I am confident that the customary IMO spirit of cooperation will prevail during your deliberations, as usual, and I hope that you will have fruitful and informative discussions, reach agreement and make progress on the agenda items under consideration.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.