Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels' Safety (SLF)

53rd session

(10 to 14 January 2011)
Good morning and Happy New Year, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifty-third session of the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels Safety.  I extend a particular, warm welcome to those delegates who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
I address you first this morning because, as you may recall, at your last session there was no election of officers of the Sub-Committee for this year – which means that, once I have concluded my speech, you will have to elect your Chairman and Vice-Chairman for 2011, while, on Thursday and as per the established practice, you will have to repeat the exercise for next year.  To this effect, I am advised that both the elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman for 2010, Mr. Zbigniew Szozda of Poland and Mr. Kevin Hunter of the United Kingdom, are available and willing to continue to serve the Sub-Committee in their respective positions, should this be your decision.  
As you may have noticed, it has now become customary that, before I address the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s World Maritime Day theme is "Piracy: orchestrating the response" and aims at complementing and coming as a sequel to last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers.  This connection was rightly emphasized when, on World Maritime Day last September, I received almost one million signatures of a petition, from people from all over the word, calling for an immediate end to piracy.
As you may know, IMO has been instrumental, and continues to play a pivotal role, in addressing, at all levels, the piracy incidence energetically, at the same time engaging as many stakeholders as possible.  However, our successes so far, most notably in the Malacca Strait, do not alter the fact that piracy and armed robbery against ships remains a real and ever-present danger to the seafarers and shipping – and this does not make us either proud or content with the results achieved so far.  It is in this context that we set, as the overall aim of the chosen theme for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response aimed at eradicating the scourge this unlawful act is causing.  To give substance to the campaign and make a difference during the year, we will be pursuing the following objectives:
- we will increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of hostages being held by pirates – seafarers, in the main;
- we will review, with the aim to update and improve the long-established guidelines to the industry while seeking to promote, to the fullest extent possible, the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures that ships sailing through piracy-infested areas should comply with;
- we will seek wider and better coordinated support from navies;
- we will seek to promote better co-operation and coordination between and among States, regions and organizations;
- we will intensify our efforts to build the capacity of States (especially those that lie close to affected areas) to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and
- equally importantly, we will take action to ensure that those attacked or hijacked by pirates and their families receive support and social care.
In the context of these efforts, I was pleased that the UN Secretary-General has accepted to come over, on 3 February, to launch with us the action plan we have compiled to give effect to our anti-piracy campaign throughout the year.  This will take place in the presence of High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to IMO of Member States, who have been invited to attend the event along with industry leaders and other dignitaries.  It is my sincere hope and strong wish that the action plan we have worked out will generate the widest possible interest and that it will inspire Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to take initiatives to give it full effect by galvanizing action and redoubling any necessary efforts.  In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon!
Distinguished delegates,
Since your last session, a year ago, the Maritime Safety Committee has met twice and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of decisions it took relevant to your work.
Among those, you should be pleased to know the Committee’s approval of the Safety recommendations for decked fishing vessels of less than 12 metres in length and undecked fishing vessels, which you developed and which, at your proposal, were forwarded to FAO and ILO for their respective approval – something that ILO has already done.  Matters pertaining to the safety of small fishing vessels constitute an important item of your work programme – one, which, in collaboration with other IMO bodies, FAO and ILO, you have been dealing with for some considerable time.  At this session, you are expected to finalize the Guidelines to enhance the safety of small fishing vessels, with the aim of assisting competent authorities in the implementation of Part B of the Code of Safety for Fishermen and Fishing Vessels. 
The safety of fishermen and fishing vessels forms an integral part of the Sub-Committee’s portfolio and one has to recognize the progress made in enhancing it.  Notwithstanding that, the fact remains that the fishing sector is still lacking a binding international safety regime, in spite of the large number of fatalities it suffers annually.  This is because the two instruments IMO has developed and adopted to that end, namely, the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol and the 1995 STCW-F Convention, have not yet come into force.  You, of all people, know too well that the slow progress in the ratification of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, in particular, constitutes a significant impediment to the enhancement of the safety of ships and personnel engaged in the fishing industry worldwide and, as such, it is a matter of serious concern.  I would, therefore, once again, reiterate my plea to Governments that have not yet done so to ratify both instruments at the earliest possible time, if we want to stem the high loss of life in the sector.  As your Governments’ advisers in this, you have a role to play and I hope you will play it with the required vigour and enthusiasm.
To such an end, you have already started work on the development of legal and technical options to facilitate and expedite the earliest possible entry into force of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. You are expected to finalize this task this week – thus paving the way for the November session of the Assembly to adopt a resolution to facilitate the entry into force of the Protocol as soon as possible thereafter.  This may prove a formidable challenge to take but, I am sure, that the excellent work done intersessionally by your ad hoc working group will considerably assist in your efforts.  Be that as it may, the members of the group, and especially its Chairman, Captain Campbell of South Africa, deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation.
Also at this session, you will continue work on the development of new generation intact stability criteria, based on the new concept of intact stability failure, with the aim of making the new criteria applicable to all types of ship.  The new criteria would follow a performance-based approach to intact stability standards.  This not only has distinct advantages – such as allowing for the introduction of the latest technological developments and innovative solutions – it also encourages the development of highest practicable standards based on scientific analysis.  I trust that, taking into account the work accomplished intersessionally by the correspondence group you established at your last session, you will be able to make considerable progress on this item this time.
The development of Guidelines to improve the effect of the 1969 Tonnage Measurement Convention on ship design and safety should receive due attention as it is expected that they will create a valuable tool to mitigate the possible adverse effect – on both the design and the safety of ships – of the practice of using the total enclosed volume of a ship as the sole basis for calculating its tonnage.  At this session, you will consider the report of the correspondence group established to finalize the various options proposed to improve the effect of the Convention on ship design and safety with a view to advising the Committee on how to proceed to take this important item forward.
In the context of the comprehensive amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 regarding damage stability and subdivision, which entered into force in January 2009, several issues have emerged requiring careful consideration.  As a follow-up to the passenger ship safety initiative, for example, and with the aim of developing appropriate amendments to the relevant SOLAS regulations, you are expected to finalize, at this session, the time-dependant survivability of passenger ships in damaged condition standards; work on stability and sea-keeping characteristics of damaged passenger ships in a seaway when returning to port by own power or under tow; and the review of damage stability regulations for ro-ro passenger ships.  Dealing with these issues will not be the easiest of tasks, given their complexity.  I am confident, however, that, by working together to guarantee the best interests of both safety and environmental protection, you will be able to successfully resolve any difficulties you may encounter in the process.
Distinguished delegates,
Equally important to those I have mentioned are other items on your agenda, such as:
• the proposed amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 subdivision standards for cargo ships;
• the guidelines for the verification of damage stability requirements for tankers and bulk carriers;
• the elaboration of safety provisions applicable to tenders operating from passenger ships; and
• the proposed amendments to the 1966 Load Lines Convention and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol related to seasonal zones.
In considering them, and all the items on your agenda, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as repeatedly emphasized by the Maritime Safety Committee and specifically called for in the Committee’s Guidelines on the organization and method of work.  In this context, you should note that, at its 88th session, the MSC decided to incorporate human element principles into the Guidelines, with a view to ensuring that the human element is thoroughly taken into account when proposals for new work programme items are considered.
As you go about your work during this week, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the considerable progress made intersessionally, on several items of your agenda, by the various correspondence groups you established last time and, in particular, by the intersessional meeting of the Working Group on Fishing Vessel Safety – and build on their successful outcome.  All the members of these groups, especially their coordinators, deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their input.
Before I conclude, and as I always do, I wish to invite your attention briefly to two matters of a more general nature.
The first concerns security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be appreciated.  These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed in their evil aims. 
The second concerns the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme.  As decided by the last Assembly, the Scheme’s institutionalization process is proceeding in accordance with the time frame and schedule set out in resolution A.1018.  While we are making good progress in developing the next phase of the Scheme, it is important that Member States continue to volunteer for audit so that the whole process can benefit from the results of as many audits as possible. Your support and contribution, in any way you can, to the success of these endeavours will be greatly appreciated.
Distinguished delegates,
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that this session will, once again, demand a lot of hard work from all of you as you are expected to finalize some of them while achieving further progress on others.  I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully, guided by the constant commitment of all of us to this Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection and inspired by the customary IMO spirit of co-operation.  This, in turn, will ensure that you make sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the Maritime Safety Committee and, as the case may be, to the MEPC as well.  I am confident that you will pursue your objectives vigorously and successfully.  As always, the Secretariat will be standing by to give you all the support required.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
And, now, on to the election of your Chairman and Vice-Chairman for this year.