Blog from IMO Secretary-General

20 October 2014

IMO - a creative technical body

Today (18 October 2014), I am writing this blog in a hotel in Mexico City, reviewing the progress made last week at IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). I am here in Mexico to attend the Fourth National Congress of Mexican Merchant Marine. This is my first visit to Mexico personally and the first official visit by an IMO Secretary-General. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Mexico’s joining IMO and I am looking forward to the various meetings and visits arranged for this official mission.

Having observed the successful conclusion of another very important MEPC session yesterday, I think that IMO has firmly returned to its roots as a creative technical body, regulating international shipping. Member Governments, shipping industry representatives, civil society organisations – indeed, all stakeholders – participated in the creative process, searching for common and shared ground, and they have found solutions. The spirit of cooperation has prevailed and last week clearly showed that IMO is functioning properly, delivering outputs to meet the expectations of all.

Ballast water management was one of the main issues in focus at this session. MEPC responded to the challenges and effectively built confidence among stakeholders, the industry and member Governments regarding the implementation of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention.

 Last year, the IMO Assembly had already adopted a realistic application schedule for existing ships and agreed to refrain from imposing sanctions based on sampling and analysis during the initial period of implementation. However, the industry’s concerns surrounding ballast water sampling and the viability of existing on-board treatment facilities already installed under the existing Guidelines  (G8) were raised at this session of MEPC.

At this session, guidelines for port State control and a new MEPC resolution were adopted. The Committee agreed to start a revision of the Guidelines (G8) and also agreed not to penalise proactive shipowners that installed type-approved systems prior to the application of the revised Guidelines (G8).

The MEPC has now responded to all major concerns raised by the shipping industry and, therefore, there should not be any additional obstacles preventing the implementation of the BWM Convention.

With this development, and the firm consensus within the Committee, the convention should now become active as soon as possible and the relevant IMO measures should be implemented without further delay.

I welcome the statement made by the International Chamber of Shipping on Friday, after the crucial session of MEPC (welcoming the progress made), and I sincerely hope that industry organisations and shipowners will reconsider their previous position and now encourage flag States to ratify the convention. I sincerely hope that Member Governments will take serious action to ratify the convention as soon as possible and ensure that it comes into force without further delay.

The prospects are now looking better than ever and I am looking forward to further developments before the end of this year and in the coming months , before the opening of the next session of MEPC, in mid-2014


16 October 2014

Presentation by José María Figueres at IMO

On the opening day of the 67th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (13 October 2014), I introduced Mr José María Figueres, the co-chair of the Global Ocean Commission and President of the Carbon War Room, to MEPC delegates at a special presentation session.

The independent Global Ocean Commission was launched in February 2013. It had one particular ambition: to raise public debate about the future of the high seas and the value of the oceans. The Commission comprises a mix of public and private figures, including former Heads of State, government ministers and business people.  All members were united in their commitment to helping reverse ocean degradation and address the perceived failure of high seas governance.

The Commission produced a report, entitled ‘From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean’, in June this year. It contains proposals for action, with a statement that the task of saving the global ocean is one that no government or company or individual can achieve alone. We must now begin to turn the tide.

I have publicly welcomed the publication of the Global Ocean Commission report, which was why I invited Mr Figueres to address the MEPC, IMO’s highest policy and decision-making body on the environment, which is in session this week (13-17 October). I was really delighted that he managed to include this visit to IMO in his busy schedule and present the Commission’s report to such an important audience.

My invitation to Mr Figueres to IMO stemmed from my firm belief that the United Nations should strengthen cooperation and collaboration among its ocean-related agencies in dealing with those problems that have not yet been effectively addressed. It is also my strong belief that IMO can contribute significantly to the United Nations as a whole in dealing with ocean issues.

I am now inviting the UN Ocean, a mechanism of the UN for cooperation and collaboration in ocean related issues, to hold a meeting next year at IMO: another good example of such inter-agency cooperation is the joint IMO/FAO ad hoc Working Group on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which will meet at IMO Headquarters in 2015.

I would like to take these opportunities to explore possibilities for further cooperation among the UN Ocean participating agencies in dealing with current and future ocean-related challenges and in setting the UN agenda on ocean issues.

The presentation by Mr Figueres at MEPC was well attended and well received by hundreds of delegates and I think we were all inspired by his presence and his vivid presentation.

After the presentation, I discussed with Mr Figueres how UN agencies could strengthen cooperation and collaboration. Our discussion touched upon a possible exchange of information between IMO and the Commission on the role of shipping and the maritime industry in the world economy and the contribution of IMO to ocean governance based on the established global system of shared responsibilities for maritime safety, security and facilitation and ocean protection under IMO conventions. I also discussed with him the importance of education to bring on the leaders of future generations who will really understand the value of the ocean, the value of shipping and the key role that IMO, through measures adopted by its member states, plays within the current and future system of ocean governance.

I am looking forward to further collaboration with Mr Figueres and the Global Ocean Commission over the next year.


13 October 2014
Challenges and opportunities ahead for shipping

The Danish Maritime Forum 2014, held from 8 to 9 October 2014 in a warehouse in the Port of Copenhagen, offered a unique opportunity for shipping industry leaders and governments of the leading shipping nations to interact and discuss the potential of the shipping industry until 2030 and beyond.

In the Ministerial Roundtable, I discerned a common consensus among Ministers that shipping is indispensable for sustainable development and has great potential for the future - the potential for growth to meet the increasing demand for seaborne trade with the growth of the world economy, and the potential to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while achieving that growth.

However, such growth will not be without challenges. If the current fleet were to increase in size by 70 per cent between now and 2030, as was predicted by many participants based on the growth trend of the last five decades, the current number of 500,000 officers needs to be increased to 850,000. If we assume that half the existing officers will retire by 2030, that means 600,000 officers would need to be recruited and trained from now, with an annual requirement for officers in the order of some 40,000. This is a real challenge and further effort must be made to bring new generations into seafaring as a profession. The seafarer’s life must be made more attractive. Simply improving the image will not work unless the younger generations see some actual benefits from serving the shipping industry.

The other big challenge/opportunity concerns shipping and climate change. Under the current adjustment period in shipping, after the 2009 contraction, slow steaming and enenrgy optimisation may continue to provide a positive contribution towards the efforts to reduce GHG emissions from ships. This has already been recognised by the IMO GHG Study of 2014. In 2012, the contribution from international shipping to total global GHG emissions was reduced from 2.7 to 2.2 per cent - a truly remarkable reduction.

Coupled with application of the EEDI requirements under MARPOL, slow steaming and energy optimisation have the potential to reduce GHG emissions from ships, even after the current over-capacity becomes absorbed by the growth of seaborne trade. But the growth in fleet capacity could offset the overall reductions brought about by slow steaming. Nevertheless, through the application of new technology, design for energy conservation in new ships and further effort for energy conservation in the existing fleet, any future increase of GHG emissions from ships can be maintained at a significantly low level, such as to a level less than half of the growth rate of seaborne trade and the world fleet. I think it would be possible that the contribution from shipping to the total global GHG emissions could be further reduced by 2030.

During the Danish Maritime Forum I had an opportunity to visit a ferry connecting Copenhagen to Oslo and I was briefed about the serious efforts being made to reduce bunker fuel consumption. I was impressed by the very long list of bunker saving initiatives accumulated over the last six years that have resulted in the reduction of fuel consumption by more than 20 per cent. This is a remarkable team effort and I congratulated the Chief Engineer of the ship.

I believe that the case I observed is not unique and the shipping industry as a whole is making serious attempts to reduce fuel consumption and increase energy efficiency, even for existing ships.

As I stated at the closing session of the Danish Maritime Forum, shipping should be recognised as a good model for other industries in the global effort to reduce GHG emissions and we should not miss any opportunity to tell this good, true story to the general public.


27 September 2014

A look to the future with Polish students

On 27 September 2014, I attended the opening ceremony for the new academic year of the Maritime University of Szczecin, Poland, conducted by the University Rector, Professor Stanislaw Gucma. This was the first event arranged for my official visit to Poland, touring Szczecin, Gdynia and Warsaw.

The ceremony was attended by Mrs Dorota Pyć, Under-Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, representatives of other maritime and technical Universities in Poland, the President of the City of Szczecin, members of Parliament and representatives of the shipping and maritime industries of Poland. A special feature of this year’s ceremony was the presence of the beautiful Russian tall ship ‘Kruzenshtern’, sent to this event by Vladimir Volkogon, the Rector of Kaliningrad State Technical University, who also attended the ceremony. Thousands of students and their families, as well as members of the general public, were also present, gathered at the port in front of the University building and the maritime museum of Szczecin.

At the ceremony I had an opportunity to deliver congratulatory remarks to the University and students. It was an exciting event and I encouraged students to work hard, acquire new skills and be ambitious to take advantage of everything this University can offer them while they dream about their future. I mentioned the outcome of Rio +20, the document “The Future We Want” and the Sustainable Development Goals which include our goal to ensure sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, in addition to many broader goals such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, health, education, gender equality, sustainable water, energy, employment and industrialization.

"It is clear that, without shipping and maritime trade, we cannot achieve our goals", I said. I asked Government officials involved in maritime industry and maritime education to work harder to raise the profile of shipping and highlight the vital role of shipping and maritime trade for the sustainable development and prosperity of mankind.


Urgent action needed on migrant issue

Today (23 September 2014) I travelled to Italy, to attend the 6th Plenary Conference of the European Coast Guard Functions Forum aboard the cruise ship Costa Serena at the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome. I appreciate very much this opportunity, provided by Vice Admiral Felicio Angrisano of the Italian Coast Guard, for me to meet those committed people in the Italian Coast Guard and the Italian Navy who are working on the front line to save thousands of migrants. I had a good conversation with the Chief of the Italian Navy, Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, on the subject of how the international community should handle the huge humanitarian problem of maritime migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

During my speech at the closing session of the Conference, I stated that the current onslaught of migration by sea is not a random occurrence. It is being organised and orchestrated by people who trade and traffic in the lives of others, and this is a crime that needs to be tackled. Poor migrants do not possess boats. Somebody must have arranged the boats, the fuel and the boats’ operators and then set sail with hundreds of migrants, against all safety regulations. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime contains the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which means we have already a firm international legal basis to take action against this crime. What is needed now is concerted action to tackle the smugglers and all those behind this organised crime.

I explained IMO’s experience in dealing with the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia and pointed out that the international community had acted with determination to counter this crime in this arena.

Although implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime is not within the remit of IMO, I pledged that IMO stands ready to collaborate and give its support to all those who can play an active part in alleviating this dreadful situation. I called for action by relevant UN agencies including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)  and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as well as the  and International Organization for Migration (IOM), INTERPOL, the African Union, the European Union and European Commission as well as the Economic Commissions for Africa and for Europe.

Collectively, we all need to work together to develop impact-oriented actions. We must take action now. We must take action against smugglers, those who rendered boats, operators and all involved in this organised crime. The international community must act now, and with the same determination as was effectively demonstrated in dealing with piracy off the coast of Somalia.

In the meantime, the plight of these people, who risk a tragic fate by taking to overcrowded small boats of dubious safety under extreme conditions, and often perish – sometimes in sight of land – continues as a blight on the 21st century.

We should spare no effort to bring this to an end, sooner rather than later.