​Singapore, Green Shipping Blue Business Conference - "Green shipping. Blue Business. Moving forward together"

Singapore, Green Shipping Blue Business Conference
"Green shipping. Blue Business. Moving forward together"
Singapore, 26-27 April 2018
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you today, and my thanks go to the Government of Norway, in cooperation with the Governments of Singapore, Germany and the Philippines for organizing this important event and giving me this opportunity to speak.

The aim of this Conference, I am told, is to contribute towards implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by promoting a green shift in all segments of the maritime sector.

That, I have to say, is a very accurate and precise summary of the aspirations which, I believe, all of us should be aiming for today. Certainly it captures a very major part of what we are trying to achieve at IMO.

Environmental issues are always high on our agenda, although we should never overlook or diminish our work in other areas such as safety, security and legal matters. Indeed you can make a strong case that much of what we do in these areas also contributes to the "greening" of the shipping industry: in simple terms, the safer a ship is, the less likely it is to become involved in an accident, sustain damage and spill its cargo or bunkers.

The theme of this Conference makes a clear link between green shipping and sustainable development. Allow me to explore that idea for a moment.

A widely accepted definition of sustainable development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It is simply impossible to envisage that kind of development without international trade. In the modern world, nobody can satisfy their present or future needs from their own resources. People have always needed to trade, and they always will.

That means there has to be a global transport system: but the transport system itself must also ensure its own sustainability. And this is generally understood to have three main "pillars" – economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and social sustainability.

Nobody in this audience will need persuading that shipping, together with all its related maritime activities, is a central part of the global transport system, and therefore an essential component of any programme for future sustainable economic growth. By providing improved access to basic materials, goods and products, by facilitating commerce and helping create prosperity among nations and peoples, shipping is helping lift millions of people out of poverty.

The world needs a sustainable and efficient shipping industry to keep the wheels of our global society in motion. And the world needs shipping to be safe, secure, and sustainable.

This is a challenge both to international shipping and to IMO, as its regulatory authority. Moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil and to require strict ballast water management are just three recent examples of how IMO is responding to this challenge. You could also add to these the adoption of the Polar Code, our involvement with the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, our leadership role in projects like GloMEEP, GloFouling and the MTCC network initiative and many more.

Shipping is under continuous pressure to improve in the environmental context; at the same time, there is an equally strong pressure from within to cut costs, to achieve economic sustainability.

Are these two ideas mutually compatible? It is true, of course, that higher standards of safety and environmental performance often come at a financial cost, which, of course, the industry has to bear, or at least some part of it.

And, for a commercial industry, economic sustainability is usually the most pressing of the three pillars I mentioned a moment ago.

But, rather than seeing them as opposing forces, I prefer to think of them as an opportunity to find innovative solutions that can address both aspects together. Developments such as renewable and alternative energy sources, enhanced hull design, improved operational procedures and better use of digital technology to optimize performance can both improve environmental performance and cut operating costs at the same time.

It is a delicate balance – and an important part of IMO's role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to global trade and development in a sustainable way, without upsetting that balance.

This is why global regulation, developed and adopted through IMO, is so important. By establishing the highest possible standards that can be applied universally, we leave no room for anyone trying to gain commercial advantage, either by cutting corners or by unilaterally imposing higher standards.

The overwhelming majority of the shipping industry shares this view. The majority of shipowners and operators are genuinely engaged, and actively seeking to raise standards and push for higher quality, throughout the industry. Their customers increasingly demand that they do this.

From a reputational point of view, it makes obvious sense. But it also makes sense economically, too. An industry where standards of safety, security and environmental stewardship are high is far better placed to attract both the financial investment and the high-calibre personnel it needs to sustain itself in the long term. High-quality shipowners and operators actually have a vested interest in developing higher standards and improving quality – and ensuring that these standards are implemented throughout the industry.

You can see this in the overwhelmingly positive response to the recent historic adoption by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee of an Initial Strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

I cannot stress strongly enough how significant this is. For the first time, there is a clear commitment to a complete phase-out of GHG emissions from ships, a specific linkage to the Paris Agreement and a series of significant levels of ambition including at least a 50 per cent cut in emissions from the sector by 2050.

Now, of course, begins the hard work of agreeing the precise measures that will enable these ambitions to be achieved. But to have this overall framework within which the technical discussions can now take place is a truly historic breakthrough.

It sends a clear message to the shipping industry about the kind of investment decisions it needs to make, and a clear message to those at the forefront of technology, research and development that there will be a market for innovative ways to make shipping cleaner and greener.

Ladies and gentlemen, much of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is founded on economic growth. In the absence of poverty, issues like hunger, equality, education and health become easier to tackle. Investments in infrastructure, including transport infrastructure, are crucial to achieving sustainable development and empowering communities.

There is no doubt that a sustainable maritime industry can both drive and support a growing economy and help achieve a truly better world.

I'd like to conclude with a quote from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres which, I think, has a strong resonance for this Conference. Speaking about climate change, he said "We don't have to wait to run out of coal and oil to end the age of fossil fuels. We need to invest in the future, not the past." And, of course, he is absolutely right. After all, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones!

As an organization, IMO can be justifiably proud of its record of steering the industry, through regulation, to being ever safer and greener.

By driving technology and encouraging innovation, IMO's global regulatory framework enables the industry to thrive while still serving society's changing demands and expectations. And that has to be good news for everyone.