I landed at the President Eduardo Frei Montalva air base of Chile at 9:16 on Thursday, 6 December 2012.
This is an official mission I am undertaking as the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization. The main purpose of the mission is to highlight the importance of IMO’s priority work programme to establish a new international legal instrument to ensure safe navigation and protection of the marine environment in Arctic and Antarctic regions - the mandatory Polar Code - with a view to adopting it in 2014.
Recent years have seen a significant increase of visitor numbers to Antarctica, which has raised the risk of accidents. Remote areas pose serious difficulties for search and rescue operations, in case of maritime accidents, and it is urgently required to establish a mandatory regulatory framework covering ship design, equipment and operation, seafarers’ qualifications, environmental protection - including prevention of air pollution - and there is also a strong need for ballast water management.
I hope that my visit today to the Chilean base in Antarctica, and other bases nearby including those of the Russian Federation, will highlight the importance of safety of navigation and environmental protection in the Polar regions and the activities of IMO.
Taking the opportunity of my visit to the Antarctica, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Chile, in particular the Foreign Ministry, the Chilean Navy and its coast guard, for their understanding and really strong support, without which I could not have undertaken my significant visit today.
I am looking forward to a fascinating programme during my short visit to Antarctica today, 6 December 2012.