Visit to the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies, Saudi Arabia

Visit to the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies, Saudi Arabia, 23 September 2017
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on your National Day and I offer you my congratulations on this important day of celebration.

Although this is a relatively young country – less than 100 years old – its geographical location has given this land a prominent role to play in international affairs throughout history. And that role has perhaps never been as prominent as it is today.

I appreciate the chance to share in your celebrations here at the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies.

This also gives me an opportunity to highlight a day which is celebrated throughout the maritime world on the last Thursday of September – World Maritime Day. We will be celebrating at IMO Headquarters on Thursday and our World Maritime Day theme for this year is "Connecting Ships, Ports and People".

This theme was chosen in the context of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs – established in 2015 as the global response to the increasingly complex challenges the world faces today.
As a United Nations agency, IMO has a strong commitment to helping achieve the SDGs. Shipping and ports and the people that operate them play a significant role in helping to create conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability. 

It is always worth repeating that billions of people all over the world rely on maritime transport in their everyday lives. Shipping is the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient way to carry goods.

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.

So a comprehensive framework of global standards and regulations have been developed by governments at IMO, covering 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.

In this context, IMO’s environmental work has come under particular scrutiny in recent years. But the accomplishments speak for themselves.

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.

And now 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. IMO Member States have pledged to 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 another 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 was an 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 being actively addressed.

These are just a few recent examples of how IMO is responding to today’s sustainability and green challenges.

Of course, IMO also continues to focus on its core work related to safety; the human element – including training of seafarers; the efficiency of shipping - including facilitation of maritime trade; and maritime security. 

Member Governments work hard in the IMO technical fora to make sure the comprehensive set of regulations, codes, and guidance developed by IMO is up-to-date and relevant.

And IMO in turn supports governments to implement IMO measures through its extensive capacity-building and technical assistance programmes.

One key area for our capacity-building work is maritime security. This is because, for trade to flow effectively, the connections between ships, ports and people must also be secure.

Good maritime security should be seen as an enabling factor for stability and prosperity – it is a means to an end, not the end in itself. National, multi-agency efforts to develop the maritime sector should naturally include maritime security.

This is where good training is so important and so beneficial. Here at the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies, IMO has been able to work with partners to develop and deliver training programmes that embody the desired multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach. 

Moving forward, I do believe that technology and the use of data hold the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. Shipping is entering a new era, thanks to new technology emerging in so many areas – such as fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction.

But technological advances present challenges as well as opportunities. 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.

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 where the appropriate actions can then be taken.

IMO provides a tangible focus for development of innovative, game-changing technical solutions for shipping. New technologies have brought 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 Saudi Arabia, 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. 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.

So let me conclude by offering my sincere gratitude to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, not only for its unswerving support for promoting safe and secure shipping in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, particularly through the Djibouti Code of Conduct, but also for its generous provision of the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies as an excellent venue for training. Training here not only has a strong beneficial impact on all those who participate in it – but also in a far wider context.

Thank you – and congratulations once again on your National Day.