WISTA/Inmarsat panel during London International Shipping Week on "Digitalization and Diversity"

WISTA/Inmarsat panel during London International Shipping Week on "Digitalization and Diversity"

10 September 2019

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here at this event organized jointly by WISTA and Inmarsat – two organizations who have strong connections with IMO.

I am especially pleased because the topics you have selected to address – digitalization and diversity – are not only high on the agenda of IMO but also very important to me, personally.

The link between them is clear. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed it perfectly when he spoke to the UN General Assembly last year.

He said "Technological advances may disrupt labour markets as traditional jobs change or disappear, even as the number of young job-seekers continues to grow. Education must adapt, from the earliest grades. And the very nature of work will change."

If the fundamental nature of work is changing, this is the perfect time to re-examine and re-assess traditional roles and expectations in the workforce – and that means embracing diversity, and equality.

You will be aware, I am sure, that IMO's own World Maritime theme for this year is "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community". Several factors underlie this; not only the objective to promote gender equality for its own sake, but also the practical reality that shipping must draw talent from every corner of the globe and every sector of the population to secure its own sustainability.

IMO has been running a highly successful campaign to promote women in the maritime community for more than 30 years. With IMO's help, seven regional Women in Maritime Associations have been established, covering more than 150 countries and dependent territories.

IMO provides gender-specific fellowships and scholarships, both at our own maritime education establishments – the International Maritime Law Institute and the World Maritime University – and at others, too. And, last year, as you know, WISTA International was awarded consultative status with IMO.

This year, to help celebrate the World Maritime theme, we are undertaking a range of initiatives and events, such as panel discussions and a social media campaign; and we have launched a new film which I hope you will look at if you haven't already done so, on our YouTube channel.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO's vision and strategy is clearly aligned with global efforts to improve the lives of people everywhere and reduce the negative impact of human development on our planet.

Today, action on these values is focused around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Helping our Member States achieve the SDGs and deliver the 2030 Agenda is one of our key strategic directions.

Gender equality is one of these goals - SDG 5 - and, although we are highlighting it this year, I want to stress that this is part of a continuing, long-term effort in support of this objective.

Of the other goals, SDG 14, dealing with the oceans, is central to IMO and its work. But aspects of our work can be linked to all the individual SDGs. Most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector – including shipping and ports – supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy. 

Let me turn now to digitalization – the other theme of this event. The integration of new and advancing technologies into the regulatory framework is an important goal for IMO.

Many are predicting the widespread introduction of autonomous vessels, or smart ships, into the shipping industry very soon – quickly followed by further "digital disruption". Artificial intelligence, "big data", automation and the "internet of things" are set to have a profound impact on shipping – not just in terms of navigation but across the full spectrum of ship operation and the logistics chain.

At IMO, we are actively preparing for this. IMO is currently assessing existing IMO instruments to see how they might apply to ships with varying degrees of automation. We have also developed interim guidelines for trials of autonomous vessels – which will be absolutely essential for shipping to embrace this new world.

This is without doubt an exciting time to be in shipping, and transport in general. The only real certainties are that that the next 10 or 20 years will see as much change in shipping as we have experienced in the past 100 years; and that whatever form the ships of the future eventually take, they will have to be ever safer and more environmental-friendly.

Thanks to digitalization and other new technology emerging in so many areas – like e-navigation, clean fuel and renewable energy, smart sensors, robotics, AI, new materials and construction techniques - shipping is entering a new era.

The need for all these technologies to be applied and embedded within a strong safety culture remains as important as ever. A key role for IMO is to balance the benefits of new and advancing technologies against safety and security concerns, and their impact on the environment and on personnel, both on board and ashore.

Thanks to new technologies, driven by digitalization, we are working differently today. And a modern workplace demands modern employment practices.

For sustainability and success in the modern world, shipping needs diversity in the workforce and women helping to drive the decision-making processes. Women in the maritime world today are strong, powerful and constantly challenging old-fashioned perceptions.

Experience tells us that diversity is better; it's better for teamwork, better for leadership - and better for commercial performance.  The maritime world is changing. And for the better. With help from IMO, and organizations like WISTA, exciting and rewarding career opportunities are opening up for women. And a new generation of strong and talented women are responding. They are proving that in today's world the maritime industries are for everyone. It's not about your gender, it's about what you can do.

Thank you.