Blog from IMO Secretary-General

14 July 2014

500 years of Trinity House and my visit to Harwich Depot

On 20 May 1514, King Henry VIII of England granted a Royal Charter that established the Corporation of Trinity House. Trinity House has been providing lighthouse services to ships navigating around the British and Irish islands over centuries and is now the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, a major maritime charity and a Deep Sea Pilot Authority. This year, 2014, marks the Quincentenary year and we should give our thanks for the dedicated service provided by Trinity House, protecting mariners throughout five centuries.  

Five hundred years ago was a really long time ago in history. Trinity House was established before the Matchlock Gun was brought to Japan in 1543, before Francisco de Xavier visited Japan as a missionary in 1549, before William Adams passed away in Japan after his service to Shougunn Tokunaga Ieyasu in 1620 and the Pilgrim Fathers of the Mayflower arrived at Massachusetts in the same year. To commemorate the 500th anniversary year, a splendid Gala Dinner was held at Guildhall of London with the Master of the Trinity House, HRH the Princess Royal, and I had the honour to be invited to attend the dinner as a Guest.

Trinity House has not just been providing lighthouse services but has made a significant contribution to the science and development of lighting. Now, in the age of e-Navigation, it is still conducting research, exploring Aids-to-Navigation systems of the future as well.

On 9 July 2014, upon the kind invitation of the Deputy Master, Captain Ian McNaught, I visited Harwich Depot. I was escorted and guided by the Director of Navigation, Elder Brother, Captain Roger Barker.

During the visit, I was provided with presentations on e-Navigation, challenges for GNSS, the potential of eLoran, recent research and collaboration activities and the most recent developments in electric lights. On e-Navigation, I reflected on the most recent developments at the newly established NCSR Sub-Committee and stated that, since the Strategy Implementation Plan for e Navigation has been established, efforts should now be made to move into the next phase of development, i.e. the practical implementation of e-Navigation and that, at the end of the day, seafarers, including pilots, are the most important actors to do the job of navigation, whilethe provision of updated information and proper notice and guidance to mariners are essential for the implementation of e Navigation.

On the way to Harwich Depot, I noticed a large number of logs in the open space near Harwich Town station. I was advised that they are all from oak trees and materials to be used in the Harwich Mayflower Project to re-construct a life-size working replica of the Mayflower, whose original port was Harwich. The Project aims at regenerating traditional shipbuilding skills, which may have been lost, and will provide opportunities for education and employment in this region. I have seen a similar project in the Mystic Seaport Museum in the United States, in the renovation of a whaling ship, Charles W. Morgan. I enthusiastically support such activities to preserve traditional technologies and skills employed in shipbuilding and I wish all fair wind and the best of luck for the Mayflower Project in Harwich.


4 July 2014

A growing concern

On 26 June I participated in the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) Council meeting in Genoa, held under the auspices of the Italian classification society RINA. On the way back I visited Naples, to attend the Port & Shipping Tech Conference, a major event in the Naples Maritime Week. I spoke about the sustainable maritime transportation system, the activities of IMO in the field of marine environment protection and recent regulations on emission control adopted by IMO.

In addition to the Conference, I had an opportunity to meet the Commandant of the Italian Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Felicio Angrisano, together with all the harbour masters of the Italian Coast Guard, who had gathered for the Naples Maritime Week. During the meeting, I indicated my appreciation for the efforts of the Italian Coast Guard in the recent operation to rescue migrants in the south Mediterranean Sea, in particular coordinating the diversion of merchant ships. The President of the Naples Propeller Club and of the Italian Propeller Clubs, Mr. Umberto Masucci, kindly arranged a port visit aboard a Coast Guard Patrol boat and a series of meetings with members of the Italian maritime cluster. Those meetings were very useful opportunities for me to have a direct exchange of views with representatives of various sectors of the Italian maritime community on current issues surrounding international shipping. The support and guidance kindly provided by Italy’s Alternate Permanent Representative to IMO, Rear Admiral Cristiano Aliperta, were essential for me to complete all the meetings arranged in a single day.

Furthermore, Mr. Masucci kindly arranged, at short notice, for me visit to one of the Italian Navy ships recently involved in the rescue of hundreds of migrants from the Mediterranean Sea. I received first-hand information from the Commanding Officer, Commander Marco Casapieri of the Navy ship ITS Carlo Bergamini (F590) on the rescue operation, and on the cooperation and support provided by merchant ships navigating in the vicinity. I expressed my appreciation for the efforts of the Italian Navy in saving the lives of large numbers of migrants. This visit in Naples for the Shipping Week, in particular the meeting with the Italian Coast Guard and the Navy, reminded me of the need for further action by the international community, including IMO, to deal with the issue of large numbers of migrants crossing seas and oceans aboard small craft.

11 June 2014

Promotion of the Cape Town Agreement and cooperation with FAO

At the kind invitation of the Director General, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, I attended the opening session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 9 June 2014.

In my opening address, I touched upon early ratification of the Cape Town Agreement for the implementation of the Torremolinos Protocol and requested Ministers responsible for the fishing industry to support IMO’s efforts to implement safety regulations for fishing vessels by ratifying the Agreement. We need support from fisheries ministries and the fishing industry for its ratification and effective implementation. Although the Cape Town Agreement is an IMO instrument, all UN Agencies dealing with ocean issues should support the efforts of IMO and encourage Governments and their respective Ministers to ratify this important instrument as soon as possible.

The immediate benefits of ratification and entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will be improvements in the safety of fishing vessels worldwide and the establishment of an active international regime of control over non-domestic fishing vessels engaging in fishing worldwide and at various parts of the oceans.  Lack of international regulations for fishing vessels compelled a global debate over decades on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the context of sustainable development after the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. In my view, the expected entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will be a clear response from the United Nations to this debate, in the context of sustainable oceans. As such, the work of IMO has an important dimension within sustainable development.

The entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement would open up the real possibility of introducing new technical regulations for fishing fleets, through the amendment process, that could both update existing standards and introduce new measures. For example, under the SOLAS Convention, IMO has already introduced specific monitoring and tracking systems for international shipping that allow the position of ships to be continuously monitored. To have such information available from fishing vessels could be of great benefit to FAO and to national fishery authorities in their efforts to combat IUU fishing, and the Cape Town Agreement, once in force, will provide a real opportunity to introduce such technical requirements for fishing vessels. I hope that, once they return to their capitals, Ministers who attended the opening session of COFI will stress the importance of this, and encourage their respective Governments to accelerate the process for ratifying the Agreement. In this year when our focus is very much on the implementation of IMO conventions, I sincerely hope that we will begin to see a flood-tide of ratifications and the eventual entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement in the not-too-distant future.

In addition, in my meeting with the Director General, we agreed to further enhance cooperation and collaboration between IMO and FAO. I suggested that we should meet at least once a year at the head of agency level, to exchange views on the areas of common interest and explore the possibility of cooperation and collaboration. We discussed the possibility of launching a joint initiative to make progress in the field of ocean governance and we agreed to continue discussions towards the realization of such an initiative.

IMO and FAO are the two core UN agencies in the field of ocean governance in the UN system and we can easily resonate and cooperate as one. We were delightfully surprised to find ourselves this morning at the Director General’s office wearing the same colour and pattern of suit, which truly reflects how we can work together.


9 June 2014

Mission to Malta

My mission to Malta was successful.

Upon my arrival, I called on the Prime Minister’s Office, the Auberge de Castille, where I had a meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr. Joseph Muscat, and the Foreign Minister, the Hon. Dr. George Vella, with whom I had a fruitful and open discussion on the issues of REMPEC and maritime migrants. I stated that IMO will continue to support the activities of REMPEC, following the restructuring of its staff complement, together with UNEP and, on the issue of maritime migrants, I raised the need for action to prevent the unlawful and dangerous sea passage of hundreds of migrants on small craft.

I also visited REMPEC and met with its staff in the current difficult situation in the wake of the agreed reform of the Centre.

In the evening, IMLI held a commemorative event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Institute and I congratulated the solid record of excellent service producing hundreds of well-trained maritime lawyers for the maritime community, in particular, in the developing world.  IMLI is and continues to be an important institute of IMO as the UN Specialized Agency providing the institutional framework for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.

On Saturday, 7 June, the 25th IMLI Graduation Ceremony was successfully conducted.

I always find it inspirational to see members of the younger generations actively engaged in developing their knowledge base and skill sets. By doing so, they equip themselves with the necessary expertise to assist them in their professional lives and to face the challenges that will inevitably come their way. I encouraged the graduates to take the issue of the relationship between UNCLOS and IMO Conventions as a lifetime theme in their professional work and to search for a robust theory over the application of the national rules and regulations of coastal States on construction, equipment and manning to foreign ships calling at ports in their internal waters, taking into account the provisions of Article 21, paragraph 2, of UNCLOS and the objectives of IMO.

Today, on 8 June, I will move to Rome to attend the opening of the thirty-first session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of FAO and to meet with the Director General, Mr. José Graziano de Silva, to discuss how we can enhance our cooperation as the two core Agencies in the UN system dealing with ocean issues.

30 May 2014

At the IALA conference in A Coruña

IALA is a non-profit international technical association of authorities dealing with marine aids to navigation (AtoN), manufacturers, consultants and scientific and training institutions. It enables them to exchange experiences and achievements, to harmonize aids to navigation services worldwide. Their activities and contributions to the work of IMO have always been appreciated and IMO has enjoyed an excellent record of cooperation with IALA in the field of aids to navigation.

This week, I attended the opening session of the 18th IALA Conference held in A Coruña, Spain, with Dna. Ana Pastor, Spain’s Minister of Public Works, and Snr. José Llorca Ortega, the President of Puertos del Estado and the host of the conference.

In my opening keynote speech, I spoke about my initiative for the Review and Reform process within IMO, which has produced a study report on the long-term financial sustainability of the Organization, a transparent budget formation process, a revised sub-committee structure, new human resources management policies, a new technical cooperation strategy based on country profiles and national maritime policy formation, as well as strengthened outreach activities through social media. Review and Reform are my main management objectives, aiming at an efficient, creative, forward-looking UN Agency in the 21st century.

I also stated that I am speaking about the objectives of IMO activities at various conferences and other public speaking opportunities. I touched upon my vision for the Accident Zero campaign, the reduction of maritime casualties by half, the eradication of marine piracy, implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, the concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System - with IMO, as the global organization for policy coordination among various sectors, acting as the institutional framework for such a system.

I also touched upon the worrying state of safety of domestic passenger ships, which have accounted for 2,932 lives lost over just two and a half years, and repeated my statement at the recent Maritime Safety Committee meeting (MSC 93) that the time has come to take a further step forward to improve the safety of passenger ships regardless of the nature of their navigation, whether international or domestic. The general public should enjoy the same level of minimum safety standards on all passenger ships.

Then I remarked on the status of development on e-navigation at IMO. I stated that, after eight years of serious discussion at the NAV and COMSAR Sub-Committees, I could not see a clear output coming from this long debate at IMO at the practical level.

IMO is a technical body and we need outputs in the form of technical guidelines, standards, recommendations for the industry and manufactures. For example, a decade of discussion produced the Goal Based Standard for new ship construction; MARPOL’s new Annex on air-pollution prevention, the GMDSS, revised passenger ship safety standards and so on.

On e-navigation, yes, the strategy towards e-navigation was established and the draft Strategy Implementation Plan is under development; but we have not yet produced tangible technical guidelines, standards or recommendations for the industry and manufacturers. I raised a question to the audience of the IALA Conference as to whether IMO has provided a beacon for the AtoN community and manufacturers and whether they are satisfied with the outcome from eight years of discussions over enavigation at IMO.

As my concluding remarks, I stated that the discussion on e-navigation should not become a continuous task at IMO without producing technical outputs and I encouraged IALA and their associated members to take a leadership role in the discussion at the newly formed Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) toward producing tangible practical and technical outputs.

This mission to the IALA Conference was a useful opportunity for me to meet members of IALA and discuss contemporary issues surrounding AtoN worldwide and I appreciate the invitation from the President, José Llorca Ortega, and the Secretary General of IALA, Mr. Gary Prosser.

It was a good opportunity for the heads of three Organizations - IMO, IHO and IALA - to reconfirm our strong cooperation in the field of AtoN. I am pleased by the support voiced by members of the IALA Council for the Accident Zero campaign in the field of Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and for their enthusiastic comments on the future of our cooperation.

This conference was held in A Coruña, where the Tower of Hercules lighthouse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been sending beacons for seafarers for nearly 2,000 years, since the Roman ages. I was introduced to the tower by the Deputy Mayor, Dna. Maria Luisa Cid, after a meeting with the City Mayor, Snr. D. Carlos Negreira Souto, at the most beautiful City Hall. It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate setting for the IALA Conference and I expressed my heartfelt gratitude to the City Mayor for the support of the city in hosting the IALA Conference this year.