Offshore Arabia 2018 - Keynote address

Offshore Arabia 2018
Conference and Exhibition
Dubai, 28 February-1 March 2018
Keynote address by Kitack Lim, Secretary General
International Maritime Organization

Minister, Director General, chair, delegates,

I am delighted to be here at this Offshore Arabia Conference and Exhibition and grateful for the opportunity to say a few words to you today.

These are times of great change for the offshore world, the shipping world and the oil and gas industries.

For around 100 years, these industries have been closely linked by oil – finding it, producing it, transporting and using it as fuel.

But today, driven by the need to address climate change and move towards a cleaner and greener future, we are all looking at a world that no longer relies heavily on fossil fuels; a world of reduced emissions, energy efficiency, clean fuels and green technology. This Conference will be taking a look into that exciting future.

IMO is concerned primarily with ships, but a number of IMO measures also affect the offshore industry. The recent revision of the Code for Mobile Offshore Drilling Units and our work on safe transport of industrial personnel are two good examples. Indeed, many of the areas in which IMO is working will be touched upon during this Conference, which is why I am pleased to be able to share some of my thoughts and ideas with you.

Later this afternoon, the focus will be on oil spill prevention, response and compensation, and I'd like to begin there. Of course, we should all be thankful that advances in several areas of maritime safety, notably navigation and officer training, have helped reduce dramatically the number of oil spills and the amount of oil spilt from ships, over successive decades. But history tells us that a single incident can have major consequences.

At IMO, we have a continuing programme of working with countries and other partners to improve our overall capacity to deal with major incidents that might result in pollution damage. Collectively the Intervention Convention, Salvage Convention, the OPRC Convention – dealing with preparedness and response to oil spills – and its Protocol on hazardous and noxious substances, as well as the various conventions covering liability and compensation, provide a comprehensive framework under which countries can prevent, mitigate and receive compensation for losses due to marine spills.

In this context, let me just add how important the HNS Convention is and how much I would like to see countries ratify this and bring it into force. It is not just oil that gets spilt, and this Convention would close a key gap in the compensation regime.

IMO also works closely with the oil industry, through its Global Initiative programme, to support many developing countries improve their capacity for oil spill preparedness and response, demonstrating again that strong cooperation by governments and the industry can be an incredibly effective approach. I cannot stress enough how important these efforts are. The incident at the beginning of this year involving the tanker Sanchi and the cargo ship CF Crystal reminded us all that the need to be properly prepared and ready to act quickly will never go away.

"Change" is a theme that runs throughout this Conference. All industries – from agriculture to zinc mining – need to change. Shipping is no exception; but what form will this change take, and how will it be achieved?

At IMO, we are helping shipping to identify what its new world will look like and to steer a course towards this future – while, in the true spirit of the United Nations, also ensuring that no one is left behind.

One immediate and urgent driver for change – and which will be of particular interest to this audience – is the impending reduction in the global limit of the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil to 0.5%. This will come into effect from 1 January 2020 – there is no turning back!

The lower global sulphur limit will have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities – such as here in Dubai, for example, where I know that air quality has been an important issue in recent years. This is very much a "good news" story.

Staying with emissions, but turning specifically to greenhouse gases – continuing our response to climate change is a key strategic priority for IMO. We have already made good progress, and our work is now approaching some new and very significant milestones.

IMO will produce a comprehensive strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships, beginning with an initial strategy to be adopted this year. This should send an important signal of intent and provide a firm basis for progress towards the revised strategy, due to be agreed by 2023.

The stakes are high and the expectations even higher. I continue to urge IMO Member States to be bold and set ambitious goals that really make a difference. I hope they will.

And it's not just on the regulatory side that IMO is playing a proactive role. We are equally concerned with capacity building, especially among developing countries. Tomorrow, you will focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. We are currently implementing two major projects which are both working, in different ways, to promote and develop low carbon technologies and energy efficient operations in shipping.

Between them, these projects are overcoming barriers, identifying solutions and helping countries develop the policies they need to transform shipping. And then, by sharing information, experiences and best practices, they will help the transformation spread further and wider. In that context, I am particularly keen to hear the outcome of your discussions tomorrow. These are issues that really must be tackled – and for wealthier nations, active support for IMO's technical cooperation activities provides an ideal opportunity to offer something tangible in this respect.

The ships of the future won't just be more energy efficient. We will see transformation in so many other ways, too. Digital disruption is now part of our lives, from healthcare to entertainment, from manufacturing to food production. It will arrive in the shipping world very soon. The next 10 or 20 years will see as much change in shipping as we have experienced in the past 100 years.

For example, we can expect artificial intelligence to have an impact on ships' navigation and operation. New players, like Google, are getting involved, developing "smart ship" concepts that could revolutionise how ships are designed, built and operated.

IMO must be ready. Our challenge is to ensure that the benefits offered by these disruptive technologies can be fully realised but without compromising safety, security or environmental protection.

Autonomous vessels, for example, which will be on your agenda tomorrow, are already on IMO's radar. In June last year, the IMO Member States decided to include this issue on the agenda of the Maritime Safety Committee, initially in the form of a scoping exercise to determine how their safe, secure and environmentally sound operation might be reflected in IMO instruments. A proposal has also been put forward to put a similar scoping exercise on the Legal Committee’s agenda. So, clearly, the Member States see this as a development that needs to be addressed now.

But this raises a fundamental issue: how do we deal with the fact that technology will move far, far more quickly than the regulatory process?

The regulatory framework for shipping must be based firmly around goals and functions rather than prescriptive solutions. IMO's goal based approach provides latitude and freedom for new technology and ideas but within the context of agreed, mandatory objectives.
IMO can be justifiably proud of its record of steering shipping, through regulation, to being ever safer, greener and cleaner – and sustainable.

In that context, this year is a particularly important one for IMO, as we celebrate two major anniversaries: 70 years since the IMO Convention was adopted and 60 years since it entered into force.

The theme we have selected for the celebration is "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future". It looks both at the past and, more importantly, into the years that lie ahead. It provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how IMO has adapted to maintain its relevance and continue to provide value to its stakeholders, in line with their own changing needs and expectations. It enables us to focus on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, both for IMO and for shipping as a whole.

Which brings me neatly back to this Conference – where meeting challenges is another essential theme.

Ladies and gentlemen, the programme for this event is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious I have seen; and in this keynote address I have only been able to touch on a small selection of the topics under discussion during the next two days. So let me take up no more of your time, and allow your packed agenda to get underway.

Thank you.