IACS Council meeting - ‘New IMO regulations, objectives and expectations from the future shipping industry’

IACS Council meeting
24 to 26 June
‘New IMO regulations, objectives and expectations from the future shipping industry’
Keynote speech by Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General,
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful once again for the opportunity to participate in your Council meeting, and for the chance to share with you a few of my own thoughts about some of the challenges we are currently facing and the progress we are making towards our objectives.

I should say at the outset how greatly IMO, the shipping industry and I, myself, value the contribution of the classification societies in our quest to ensure shipping becomes ever safer and ever cleaner. The practical work that you do in surveying, assessing and verifying compliance with existing international standards is something the industry and its regulators rely on, every day of the year – and which chimes perfectly with our special focus for 2014 on the implementation of IMO conventions. 

But, more than that, your input, through IACS, to the process of modifying and improving existing standards and, where appropriate, developing new measures, is of immense value. You bring to the table an unrivalled accumulation of experience and expertise.

Our main, shared objective is, of course, safety; the safety of ships, the safety of seafarers, the safety of passengers and of anyone else who ventures to sea in ships. And, while the overall statistical trend for total losses continues to move in the right direction, a number of high profile incidents in recent years have reminded us that this particular battle is far from won, and that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of complacency.

Here in Italy, and with RINA currently taking its turn in the Chair of the IACS Council, there is little need for me to go over once again what happened more than two years ago, when the Costa Concordia hit the rocks off the Isola del Giglio. What matters now is how we learn from this incident and move forward.

When it met last month, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee agreed a revised long-term action plan on passenger ship safety, following extensive discussion in a working group on the subject. A whole range of matters, including damage stability and survivability of passenger ships after flooding, the operation of watertight doors, double-hull requirements in way of engine rooms, damage control drills and matters related to search and rescue, are now under active consideration by the Committee and the appropriate sub-committees.

In addition, the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments, which meets next month, has been tasked to complete its consideration of the casualty investigation report as a matter of priority, and to bring to the attention of MSC 94, in November, the contributing factors, issues raised, lessons learnt and observations on the human element factors involved. 

We need to know exactly what went wrong, what lessons we should learn and what measures we should establish in response. You will agree, I am sure, that, with these actions, the MSC has set a clear direction towards an appropriate review of the safety issues surrounding this incident.

But, sadly, this is not the only passenger ship incident with which we must concern ourselves. Earlier this year, the world was saddened by the loss of life in yet another tragedy involving a domestic ferry, the Sewol. Investigations into this accident are underway and I hope that IMO will be informed of the outcome, so that we may learn the causes of the accident and, in particular, any findings that may suggest a need for improvements to safety standards and recommendations already established by IMO.

The Sewol was the most recent one in a worrying succession of serious accidents involving domestic ferries in developing countries, which have accounted for 2,932 lives lost over just two and a half years. Under its Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme, IMO is engaged in a project specifically dealing with domestic ferry safety. I am of the opinion that the time has now come for IMO to step forward to take further action to improve the safety of passenger ships carrying hundreds of the general public, regardless of the nature of their voyage, whether domestic or international. Only IMO can take such action to improve safety at sea. I am now taking steps to strengthen IMO’s Technical Cooperation Programme on domestic ferry safety with a view to providing safety recommendations and guidelines to maritime Administrations in developing countries. I am also considering holding a major Conference on domestic ferry safety next year in the Philippines and have started consultations to realize a significant event next year.

Last year, there was another accident which I think deserves equally thorough consideration. Although, in this case, no life was lost and there was no major pollution, nevertheless this was a very serious incident. I am referring to the Japanese-built, Japanese-surveyed and Japanese-operated MOL Comfort, a relatively young container ship which developed a serious crack, leading to the progressive structural failure and the total loss of the vessel.

I know that this incident prompted a very quick response within IACS, with an expert group formed to undertake an open discussion and exchange of information on the state of the art of containership structural design, construction, operation and survey – and, as a result, IACS has decided to develop unified functional requirements relating to load cases and hull girder strength for containerships.
I very much appreciate IACS’s positive deliberation on large container ship safety; and look forward to submissions from IACS to IMO’s relevant bodies on its findings and proposals. IMO is the most appropriate body in the world to deal with this important issue, and the stakes are very high indeed.

You may be well aware now, two and half years after I took up my Office as the Secretary-General, that I am always looking ahead of things, trying to see something beyond the horizon and suggest a direction to be followed. 

The first International Convention for the Safety of Life – SOLAS – was adopted in London in 1914, 100 years ago, just two years after the sinking of the Titanic. That instrument effectively created one of the most important fields of activity for IMO – safety. In 1974, IMO adopted the current version of this Convention, and it is still in place today.

The 1974 SOLAS Convention provides a solid, good framework and we can update it as necessary, as we have done over the last four decades. But it is largely a prescriptive instrument. In the years to come, however, my aspiration is to encourage the maritime community to use a more formal approach towards safety-assessment and risk-assessment techniques in framing goal-based regulations. As you will all know very well, this process is already underway and I think it is in this approach that the future lies. The development of goal-based standards for construction rules for tankers and bulk carriers is a step in this direction and their implementation will constitute an important step towards a better framework to regulate the safety of shipping.

Emerging technologies and innovation offer huge potential to take safety into a new era – but they need to be properly and cautiously embraced, in a systematic way, making sure that the safety of ships of the future would not be compromised. The key for risk assessment is our ability to check the risk of proposed control options against the actual data accumulated from past experience. 

In this context, a robust formal mechanism to collect and analyse casualty data should be established under SOLAS, so that objective judgement of the risks could be ensured for the design standards of future ships. This would entail a long process, but we must start, sometime, creating such a mechanism. To this end, IMO plans to enhance the Marine Casualties and Incidents module in GISIS to provide a casualty database to support risk analysis, a database which is intended to be more user-friendly and useful. I look forward to the continuing support of IACS in this respect.

This year marks 100 years after the adoption of the first SOLAS, and 2024 will be the 50th anniversary of the 1974 SOLAS Convention. Some of you are aware that I am advocating that the regulatory regime of tomorrow should be contemplated through review of the SOLAS Convention and that should be done before we celebrate that 50th anniversary, in 2024. Risk assessment based on a robust database holds the key to the future and I wish that I could see it happening in the coming decade.

Meanwhile, of course, our regular work continues to promote better safety standards for shipping. And, in a year when we are focusing on the implementation of existing instruments as a means of achieving this, I was very encouraged to note that MSC 93 last month completed the legal framework for the implementation of the mandatory IMO audit scheme, with the adoption of amendments to several treaties to make mandatory the use of the IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code) and the auditing of Parties to those treaties. 

The IMO Council approved, last week, my proposal for resource requirements for the commencement of the mandatory audit in January 2016 and I will introduce a new support system in the Secretariat shortly to ensure that all preparatory work would be completed before the end of 2015.

Another very significant achievement of IMO this year, so far, is the progress achieved towards the finalization of the Polar Code. The draft Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles. 

The MSC approved the safety-related aspects of the Code and a new chapter of SOLAS to make it mandatory, and both are expected to be adopted at the Committee’s next session in November. The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue will finalize the chapters related to the safety of navigation and communication when it meets next month, and the Marine Environment Protection Committee is expected to further consider the environmental chapter at its next session, MEPC 67, in October. I am confident that we are on track to meet the target we had set ourselves to complete this planned output.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are so many other aspects of our work at IMO that I could talk about. I haven’t even mentioned our work in the fields of environmental protection, fishing, maritime security and counter-piracy, transport sustainability and capacity building, to name some of the key areas in which we are currently engaged.

Safety must remain firmly at the centre of IMO’s activities. At IACS, given your hands-on involvement with the nuts and bolts of ship safety, you will be more aware than most that, despite the huge advances that have been made in recent years, each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and accidents still occur, even today. This reinforces the need for continual improvement and underlines the idea that the maritime community should start considering a new regime for the future.

The ships of the future must provide a continuous response to the needs of society, industry and global trade and must be operated within a framework that encourages a safety culture beyond mere compliance with statutory requirements.

I genuinely believe that we stand on the brink of a new and positive era for ship safety, with techniques such as formal safety assessment, risk assessment based on systematic casualty data analysis, and measures such as goal-based construction standards pointing the way towards more robust and safer ship designs.

IMO will be leading the way to that future, and I have every confidence that IACS will be there to assist and support us, every step of the way.

Thank you.