Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 91st session, 26 to 30 November 2012 (opening speech)

(26 to 30 November 2012)
Good morning, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers. 
Welcome to the ninety-first session of the Maritime Safety Committee. 
As always, the Committee has a full agenda and many issues to discuss.  However, before making reference to the most significant ones, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to the successful outcome of the International Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels held last month, in Cape Town, and which resulted in the adoption of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977. 
The Agreement, which was adopted by consensus following intensive deliberations at the Conference, had been prepared in detail by the SLF Sub-Committee and a consolidated draft text was subsequently approved at MSC 89, reflecting a significant amount of work by the Committee to develop a workable way forward.  I was therefore very pleased to see the renowned IMO spirit of co-operation prevailed in Cape Town. The Final Act of the Conference with its attachments, the Agreement itself and the six conference resolutions have been circulated.  You will be invited to consider, in particular, the resolution which requests the Committee to develop a procedure for calculating the number of fishing vessels of each Contracting State.  You are requested to complete this task at the earliest opportunity, but not later than 1 January 2014. 
I wish to express my personal thanks, as well as those of the entire IMO membership, to the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa for providing excellent facilities and services to ensure the successful running and outcome of the Conference. 
I am proud that, in this centenary year of Titanic, we  agreed, at long last, to renew our commitment to implement the provisions of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol by unanimously adopting the new Agreement, which represents a practical and realistic regulatory and enforcement regime that addresses the economic, as well as the social and environmental aspects of the fishing sector.  Once in force, it will provide the basic framework for the proper implementation and enforcement of internationally binding safety standards.  This will not only safeguard the lives of fishermen around the world, it will also mark a significant contribution to the longer-term sustainability of the fishing industry, which I see as an important part of on-going efforts, within the wider United Nations context, to achieve sustainable development goals in the economic, environmental and social spheres.  Thus, our work is not finished and the immediate task at hand is now to promulgate the Cape Town Agreement and to ensure the proper implementation and enforcement of its mandatory safety standards through national legislation.
I urge Member Governments to ratify it as soon as possible, so that its early entry into force can be secured.  As always, the IMO Secretariat stands ready to respond, through our Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, to requests from Members for advice and assistance.
Distinguished delegates,
Two issues on your agenda regularly feature in the media and are areas of our work that are of interest to the general public: the on-going problem of piracy; and the travelling public’s direct interest in the safety of passenger ships.
As the loss of the Costa Concordia amply demonstrated, those affected are quick to call for action. The international nature of the passengers and crew – with some 70 nationalities involved in the Costa Concordia incident – highlighted the need for an international response, through IMO, to take the appropriate and necessary action in evaluating, developing, and implementing any provisions that might be recommended and needed, following consideration of the outcome of the casualty investigation and any other relevant information.
Member governments and the passenger ship cruise industry in particular, responded quickly and appropriately to my call at the beginning of this year for all concerned to take steps to ensure that current national safety regulations and procedures are being implemented fully and effectively, in particular those aiming at ensuring safe operations on board.
The Committee supported the establishment of a clear timetable for consideration of the need for improvements or modifications to the current international regulations, based on the outcome of the casualty investigation of the Costa Concordia accident.
In this context, the key issue for the credibility of the Organization was the speedy conduct of the casualty investigation by the flag State authority and submission to the Organization of any findings, so that the Committee could take the necessary action as soon as possible. It is almost a year since the vessel’s grounding and capsize and we are still awaiting the official casualty investigation report – but I welcome the information provided by Italy providing an update on developments and providing an early indication of the issues the Organization may wish to consider in the future. I recognized that some of the issues raised are far reaching. But they reflect what has been found and serious discussion so far in the process of the official casualty investigation and I am grateful to the Italian authorities for providing such information for this session.
On passenger ship safety, it is important that the Organization continues to take the lead, together with the industry, on enhancing passenger ship safety standards, particularly operational standards.  In this context, I recognize and appreciate the coordinated efforts of the Cruise Industry to improve operational safety and actions already taken.
But, it is my view that, notwithstanding the lack of the official investigation report, the Organization now can take some action, at least on the most pressing operational and management issues stemming from the casualty, based on your discussion and decisions at the last MSC in May and information now provided by Italy.  What is required is to establish operational and management measures robust enough to prevent recurrence of that type of navigation we all saw which resulted in the fatal grounding with rocks.  Not to make progress on the pressing issues, simply because of the lack of the official investigation report, would seriously damage the credibility and authority of this Organization.  We have already spent nearly a year since the accident and, this week, you are holding the second meeting.
My view is that the conduct of emergency drills, control of access to the navigation bridge and the voyage plan are the areas we need to address with urgency and I would like to speak more on these matters under agenda item 7.
On piracy, the Organization has continued its work, in conjunction with its many partner organizations in the United Nations and elsewhere, to support the shipping industry and we have spared no effort to reduce the number of successful attacks off the coast of Somalia.  This work was recognized by the UN Security Council in its resolution 2077 adopted last week.
I am proud that IMO has been taking a leadership role in addressing unprecedented complex challenges to its regulatory mandate, such as the consideration of the carriage of firearms on board merchant ships.  Following the work at your last session with the High-level segment to develop Interim Guidance to private maritime security companies providing contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area, and your Committee’s request, at MSC 90, for the International Organization for Standardization to take this work forward, we now welcome the work done by ISO.  Its contribution to the development of international minimum standards for the shipboard deployment of armed security guards will be particularly useful to flag States, and this will in turn help ship owners who urgently need practical as well as legally acceptable solutions.
We have meanwhile continued our work with others to address the root causes of piracy in Somalia and I have taken action to strengthen the team implementing the Djibouti Code of Conduct.  That work, including the development of maritime situational awareness and the training of personnel, is particularly important.  The Organization is also focusing on the development of maritime law enforcement capability in the countries of west and central Africa as our main effort for combatting piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
Turning now to other important issues on your agenda, you will be aware that the MEPC recently approved the draft IMO Instruments Implementation Code, together with the associated draft assembly resolution and the related amendments to make the Code and auditing mandatory under all six MARPOL annexes.  This sends a strong signal that we continue to move forward, as planned, with the institutionalization of the IMO Member State Audit Scheme, and I look forward to your Committee now completing its work, at this session, on this important issue with respect to the SOLAS, Load Lines, COLREGS, Tonnage and STCW Conventions and related Protocols. 
The MEPC also recently approved the draft Code for recognized organizations, which your Committee will consider further this week, demonstrating that we, at IMO, fully acknowledge the essential role of classification societies in facilitating the implementation of IMO instruments. 
Distinguished delegates,
Goal-based standards will once again focus the mind of your Committee.  You will continue your work to advance the development of the concept in conjunction with your work on Formal Safety Assessment, including making progress on interim guidelines for the safety-level approach and further developing draft Guidelines for the approval of alternatives and equivalents to provide consistency in the application of the relevant IMO convention requirements. 
As this work shows, there is a trend towards a more scientific approach, including risk- based methodologies, to address both the design and operation of the safe ship of today.  This trend is set to continue, but systematic casualty and accident data collection and analysis are required, based on transparent and consistent methodologies, if shipping is moving towards a future safety regime continuously improving its safety record.  The advances in technology inevitably outpace prescriptive regulations. There is, therefore, a need to devise a regulatory framework that will encourage technological innovation and which promotes operational excellence within clear and widely accepted, high-level parameters. 
The Symposium on Future Ship Safety that I plan to hold in the two days before the start of your next session aims to do that by looking ahead, in the decades to come, to the ships of the future – ships that meet clear goals and functional requirements to fulfil the safety and, also increasingly, the environmental protection expectations of civil society.
You have many other important items on your extensive agenda this week, but I would just highlight, in particular, the all-important development of the Polar Code, which will build on the common concerns of sustainable development and environmental protection.  In this regard, the outcome of MEPC 63 is relevant to your consideration of how best to make the Code mandatory within the existing legal framework of the Organization’s conventions – I am sure this particular discussion will be of great interest to all parties involved in this important work.
Before I conclude my opening address, I wish to update you on my initiative to Review and Reform of the way we work.  The Council, earlier this month, considered my proposals, which are based on the steady progress made by the various groups I established in the Secretariat, and I am pleased that the Council endorsed, in principle, many of my proposals.
The Council now invites all the Committees to consider those proposals from the points of view of their implications and practicability.  You may wish to give them preliminary consideration at this session with a view to reporting more fully to the Council session of next July, after your next scheduled session in June of next year.
It remains for me now to encourage you to work together, and to support your Chairman, Mr. Christian Breinholt of Denmark, in tackling the heavy and complex workload of this session in the limited time available and to find the right balance so that you may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes, in the usual spirit of IMO consensus building.  I thank you in advance for that.  For our part, we, as the Secretariat, will discharge our duties and responsibilities in supporting both the Chairman and the work of the meeting to the best of our abilities.
With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations.  And, last but not least, I look forward to you all joining me and my Secretariat colleagues at a drinks reception in the Delegates’ Lounge this evening, after this year’s Bravery Awards Ceremony, which should also provide a more informal setting to discuss matters of common interest and common concern.
Thank you.