Facilitation Committee, 38th session, 8 to 12 April 2013 (opening address)

(8 to 12 April 2013)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the thirty-eighth session of the Facilitation Committee.  I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Committee for the first time.
At FP 56 at the beginning of the year, I set two bold targets.  On piracy, I set a target for the eradication of piracy and the release of all seafarers held hostage within the foreseeable future.  Although the numbers of attacks has reduced, at the beginning of this year 12 ships and 159 seafarers remained captive.  As of 31 March the numbers were further reduced to 7 ships and 77 crew, however, there is no room for complacency.  Our fight against piracy continues. In this regard, I recently wrote to 24 Member States urging them to continue their work to protect merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean through the provision of naval forces until the risk is substantially and sustainably reduced. Similarly, merchant ships need to continue to apply IMO guidance and best management practices. 
There have been further developments on the western coast of Africa.  A new Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa was adopted at a Ministerial meeting in Benin.
IMO has been actively involved in this development, particularly pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), and I am pleased to see that the new Code incorporates many elements of the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the existing MoU on the integrated coastguard function network in West and Central Africa.  This required hard work, encouragement and vision and I would like to state here that our security team here in the Secretariat, led by Chris Trelawny, has played a major role.
I pledge my determination to support Western and Central African nations in establishing a workable, regional mechanism of co-operation for anti-piracy activities.
Of particular relevance to this Committee is MSC-FAL.1/Circ.2 - a Questionnaire on information on port and coastal State requirements related to privately contracted armed security personnel and, in particular, the lack of responses, from your Governments, thereto.  This circular urges Member Governments to raise awareness of their relevant national legislation, policies and procedures relating to the carriage, embarkation and disembarkation of firearms and security-related equipment through their territory and the movement of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) by completing the questionnaire and submitting it to the Organization. Clarity on national legislation and procedures are cornerstones of good facilitation.  
My second target relates to casualties and loss of life, with the aim of reducing the current level of some 1,000 lives lost per year to half that figure.  This is a significant challenge when considering the many types of ships involved, including domestic ferries, fishing vessels and others.
On the matter of the casualty investigation into the loss of Costa Concordia, I am pleased to state today, that we have received the preliminary recommendations stemming from the Costa Concordia casualty investigation conducted by the Italian authorities (MSC 92/6/3) and we expect the final report of the investigation will be submitted to IMO soon for consideration by Member Governments.
The preliminary recommendations, set out in a document for consideration by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 92) at its meeting in June, provides an extensive range of recommendations addressing stability issues, electronic equipment, emergency power generation, evacuation analysis, search and rescue in addition to operational and management issues.
The recommendations, based on the casualty investigation, have been long awaited but now, with the assurance of the availability of the final casualty investigation report and preliminary recommendations available, the Committee has been provided with a sound basis upon which to take swift action to learn the lessons from the Costa Concordia accident with a view to enhancing international standards for passenger cruise ships.
In order to allow ample time for consideration of the recommendations and the report itself, we have contacted the Chairman of MSC and relaxed the deadline for submission of any comments of proposals to the end of this month.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Italian Maritime Casualties Investigation Body for its commitment and efforts to submit the preliminary recommendations and the casualty investigation report in time for consideration by the upcoming meeting of the Committee. 
Distinguished Delegates,
This year, our World Maritime Day theme is IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20 and in this regard we have commenced discussions with industry and others on sustainable maritime development.  I hope I will be able to report on our discussion with all stakeholders and to present a concept of sustainability, with a related agenda to move forward the roles for IMO, Member States and industry, in advance of our World Maritime Day celebration later this year.
Mr. Chairman,
In June last year, I reported to the Council (C 108) on my Review and Reform initiative aimed at improving IMO's delivery mechanism to handle the ever-increasing workload as the Organization seeks to address newly emerging priorities.   At its subsequent session, in November (C 109), the Council considered my report of a study on the Organization’s long-term financial sustainability and, among other issues involving the review and reform initiative, matters related to the restructuring of the sub-committees.  A framework document on the restructuring of the sub-committees has already been released for consideration by MEPC and MSC and I am looking forward to further development on this important issue.

Distinguished Delegates,
Turning to the main tasks for your Committee at this session, I will start with the comprehensive review of the FAL Convention.  On-going work has been further progressed by the correspondence group you established at your last session. The importance of this review, cannot be underestimated.  I trust that the group’s work will enable you to progress the issue further this week. Our aim should be to ensure that the Convention continues to be relevant to both the present and emerging needs of the shipping industry, as they relate to the smooth flow of traffic into, and out of, ports. To such an end, advantage should be taken of relevant technological developments, such as those achieved in the field of electronic transmission of information and the Single Window concept the Committee has been dealing with for some considerable time.
These, and many other considerations of a commercial and economic nature, make the review an exercise of paramount importance.
It is therefore very important that you consider not only the review of the substance of Convention and its Annex but also how you are going to approve the amendments – whether through the Committee or by means of a Conference, as this will impact on the work of the Organization in the coming biennium.

Distinguished Delegates,
At its last session, your Committee adopted the Revised IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business a complex and living document that deserves constant attention and updating for fuller implementation of the FAL Convention.  At this session, your Committee will consider further technical modifications to the specifications therein, within the wider context of the electronic clearance of ships, which has been an important item on your agenda for some time. 
At this session, you are also expected to consider the report of the Correspondence Group on electronic access to, or electronic versions of, certificates and documents required to be carried on ships, with a view to establishing a system and developing guidelines for using electronic versions of certificates in lieu of original paper copies.

Several other items on your agenda are also important and call for careful consideration.  Among those, I would highlight, in particular:
• maritime trade recovery issues;
• shore leave and access to ships;
• technical co operation matters; and
• matters related to stowaways. 
The issue of stowaways is a perennial problem.  I am particularly grateful for the information provided by the P&I Clubs on the extent of the issue and for presenting it for consideration by the Committee.  The information presented by the P&I Clubs identifies the top 10 ports of embarkation of stowaways, which lends support to the need for action to be taken in the South and West African regions to address the security challenges in the maritime domain, which include: piracy and armed robbery, port facility security issues as well as the issue of stowaways.
The facilitation of maritime transport plays a key role in helping countries take an active part - and become integrated - in the global economy.   South and West African countries must surely therefore have a strong interest in suppressing threats to maritime trade.  In this regard, IMO has been developing its maritime security strategy for West Africa and has advocated a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary approach both nationally and regionally to the States in the region, highlighting the benefit of inter-agency co-operation.
IMO is also preparing for a regional workshop on the security challenges to take place end of July this year and intends to convene a regional meeting focussing on the prevention of stowaways in South and West Africa in the second half of 2013.
Distinguished delegates,
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that you will have, once again, a busy session.
While several issues on your agenda will not be easy to deal with, I am, nevertheless, confident that, with the usual IMO spirit of co-operation, you will tackle the tasks before you in your customary expert manner.  A fruitful outcome of the session will provide welcome direction and guidance to everyone concerned with the facilitation of international maritime traffic and with furthering all the associated goals and objectives of this Organization.  The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting to the best of its abilities. 
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to your former Chairman, Mr. Abela of Malta, who is present in his new role as a member of the Observer delegation of the European Commission, and thank him again for his many years of dedicated service to the Organization, and to this Committee, as its Chairman.  We wish him well in his new career. 
I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck. 
Thank you.