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IMO Secretary-General’s speech to IPTA conference

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IMO'S Secretary-General Kitack Lim

IMO’S Secretary-General Kitack Lim

International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA)
8th Chemical and Product Tanker Conference, 8 March 2016
Keynote address by Kitack Lim
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this important international conference and I am grateful to the Conference Chairman Captain Ian Finley and IPTA Chairman Mr. Mark Cameron for the opportunity to deliver one of the keynote speeches this morning. Captain Finley has contributed enormously to the work of IMO for several decades and he is currently the Ambassador of the Government of the Cook Islands to IMO. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation for his dedication.

Let me say at the outset that, as someone who has been involved in shipping all his working life, I really do understand and recognize that yours is one of the most specialized, sophisticated and potentially hazardous sectors of the shipping industry.

Every day, chemical tankers deliver a huge array of liquid products, ranging from solvents used in many different industries, to the myriad products that provide the raw materials for producing plastics, and even delicate cargoes like olive oil, orange juice and wine.

The products they carry can be toxic, corrosive, flammable, noxious or easily susceptible to contamination. You cannot mix them together; often, you cannot even keep them in the same tanks or run them through the same pipework.

Some cargoes require heating, others need refrigerating. Some react violently with water and have to be handled in ultra-dry conditions. When corrosion is the risk, products may need to be carried in tanks made from high-grade stainless steel. And flammable, explosive or noxious cargoes present a continually-present risk, both to the ships themselves, and to the women and men who work aboard them.

As a result, the ships themselves are among the most complex and technologically advanced in the global fleet, typically featuring a large number of cargo tanks and highly sophisticated cargo operating systems necessary to carry such a broad range of products.

You may wonder why I am telling you all this, when of course you know it very well. But my purpose is simply to emphasize the fact that, despite the hazards, the complexities and the risks, the chemical tanker sector can boast one of the best safety and environmental records in the entire shipping industry. There hasn’t been any major spill from a chemical tanker for many years, and for that you deserve great credit.

image002 (30)Not surprisingly, chemical tankers are governed by one of the strictest and most thorough regulatory regimes surrounding any individual ship type. Carriage of chemicals in bulk is covered by regulations in both SOLAS and MARPOL. Both require chemical tankers to comply with the International Bulk Chemical Code, which prescribes, in detail, the design and construction standards of ships involved in chemical transport and the equipment they should carry. And crews working aboard chemical tankers must undergo special training to ensure that they understand the risks and know how to adopt safe working practices at all times.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize IPTA’s contribution, as the recognized NGO for the IMO classified fleet of chemical and product tankers, to the work of the Organization. Over the years, IPTA has taken a central role in major initiatives such as the revision of MARPOL Annex II, evaluating the hazards associated with thousands of chemicals and updating the IBC Code. I cannot stress enough what a vital contribution your organization has made, through this work, to what has been among IMO’s notable successes of recent years.

When they invited me to speak to you today, the organizers of this event asked me to share my thoughts on some of the key challenges facing IMO today and what my priorities will be as Secretary-General.

Well, let me start by saying that the range of issues on which IMO is engaged is vast and varied. Each of the technical sub-committees and each of the main committees has a packed agenda and, collectively, their work touches almost every aspect of the shipping industry, including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and the eventual end-of-life disposal of ships.

As any of you who have attended their meetings can testify, the level of detail at which these IMO bodies operate is almost microscopic at times. After nearly 60 years, the end result of this work is a regulatory framework for shipping that is comprehensive and very effective.

As we move forward, this framework will inevitably need to be amended and upgraded, to keep pace with technological developments, and with the changing expectations of our Member Governments and the populations they serve.

We see this in, for example, amendments to the IBC Code that are currently being developed, with the aim of increasing still further the safety and improved environmental protection aspects of carrying bulk chemicals by sea.

Another example is the increasing scrutiny being placed on our work to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and thereby contribute to the global imperative to tackle climate change.

Developing an appropriate and effective way forward on climate change will continue to be at the top of the Organization’s agenda for the foreseeable future and I note with interest that your second keynote speaker Dr Gabrielle Walker, and your panel discussion this morning, will also focus on this vital issue.

The Paris Agreement, which was the main outcome of COP 21 in December last year, was described by Ban Ki-moon as a victory for the world’s people, and a triumph for multilateralism; and I hope and expect that the momentum it has generated will be felt when the same countries come to IMO next month to continue their work to regulate GHG emissions from international shipping. Completion of the data collection system, for example, would certainly send a very positive signal about how seriously IMO, and shipping, are tackling this vital issue.

But, aside from the regulatory function, I foresee a growing emphasis within IMO on the other part of the Organization’s mandate, which is to help Member States and the industry ensure that the regulatory framework and its provisions are effectively and uniformly implemented. Indeed, the IMO Assembly has already adopted resolutions emphasizing that new conventions and amendments to existing conventions should be considered only if there is a clear and well-documented compelling need.

The adoption of measures at IMO should be just the beginning of the process, not the end; because IMO measures are only worth anything if they are effectively and universally implemented. Only then can they have a tangible impact.

We see a typical example of this in the HNS Convention, a measure that would provide a regime of liability and compensation for damage caused by hazardous and noxious cargoes transported by sea. It was first adopted in 1996. But, by 2010, it had still not entered into force and so a new measure was adopted to address some of the practical issues that had prevented widespread ratification; six years later, and this revised measure has still not received sufficient ratifications to trigger entry into force – indeed no ratifications have been received as yet.

With the number of ships carrying HNS cargoes growing steadily and more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals now traded annually by tankers, this treaty is needed more than ever. I have urged all States to accede to it as soon as possible, to bring it into force, and I hope you will, collectively, add your voice to that call.

IMO’s core goals can only be achieved when all its Member States and other key stakeholders such as our industry partners, join together to implement the measures that are agreed and adopted properly and effectively.

While continuing with IMO’s vital and necessary function of rule-making, I intend to ensure that utmost focus is placed on improving implementation at a global level. To this end, I envisage IMO acting as a bridge among Member States and others, to ensure good communication and effective understanding. We also have to enhance the TC programme as much as possible based on multilateral and bilateral partnerships.

Looking at the broader picture, I want to increase IMO’s visibility, both within shipping and externally. If we look within shipping itself, I have no doubt that IMO is well-known among technical superintendents of shipping companies and among serving officers who have to work with IMO standards every day of their lives. And clearly, the Organization is well-known among the ship surveyors, inspectors and classification societies whose job it is to verify and confirm compliance.

But how well-known is IMO outside of these technical areas? How well-known is it, for example, in the brokerage community, the underwriting world, in the financial institutions or in the port industry?

I think it is vital that we also look to raise our profile among key influencers and policymakers. There is a clear tendency among our stakeholders to operate in silos. Nowhere is this more evident than in governments, where we often find that areas such as maritime safety and navigation, port and infrastructure development, transport policy, environmental protection, fisheries, security, customs and border control all fall within different departments or different ministries.

And yet, in reality, all these areas are linked to one another and have a mutual influence and bearing on each another.

And IMO has a legitimate interest in all of these areas, too. So I am keen to raise our visibility not just among those who already know us, but also among those who do not. I want to raise awareness among officials, ministers and decision-makers outside of our regular community, and I want to do this in the interests of joined-up thinking, joined-up planning and collaboration.

So how do we achieve this? For me, one of the most valuable tools we have is communication – which is another reason why I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here with you today. By sharing our thoughts, our experiences, our problems and our successes – this is how we make progress.

And it is not just about telling – it is about listening, too. I want to listen to and learn from people who are affected in their daily lives by the work that IMO does; and that will help me, when I am speaking to the policymakers and decision-takers, to emphasize the real importance, to them and their constituents, of the issues we are dealing with.

IMO serves its Member Governments by enabling them to create the conditions in which shipping can flourish as a safe, secure, efficient and environment-friendly industry. And the reason this is so important is that shipping is the only viable delivery mechanism that can support global trade and the global economy.

Ships and ports are links in a global supply chain which, like any chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. At IMO, we work continually, and in many different ways, towards clear objectives designed to strengthen that chain. We strive to make ships safer, both as places to work and as they interact with their surroundings; we strive to minimize the negative impact of shipping on the environment and to improve security around ship operations and we strive to ensure that shipping is more efficient, both operationally and in terms of the resources it uses.

IPTA, with its own clear commitment to the enhancement of maritime safety, the protection of the marine environment and the reduction of atmospheric pollution from shipping, is an important part of the IMO family and a key partner for the Organization and its members.

IMO is the single, global body for maritime policy and regulation. Over the past half-century, it has had a huge beneficial impact on shipping and this has been felt by all those who rely on the industry. Looking ahead, I would like to see the positive benefits of IMO’s work spread further throughout the supply chain, and the kind of joined-up thinking and communication I referred to earlier will be essential if this is to happen.

One of my major priorities as Secretary-General will be to sharpen the general understanding and appreciation among the wider public of the shipping and port industries, which are vital to the global economy and on which we all depend.

Indeed, this is reflected in the theme we have chosen for World Maritime Day 2016, namely “Shipping: indispensable to the world”.

As I am sure some of you know, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited IMO Headquarters in February. When he addressed delegates and IMO staff, he said – among other things:

“Every country relies, to some degree, on selling what it produces and acquiring what it lacks. Shipping connects buyers and sellers across the world. It transports the commodities, fuel, food, goods and products on which we all depend. Shipping is indispensable.”

Shipping and international trade have always grown hand in hand, and shipping – as the only truly cost-effective, energy-efficient and sustainable means of transporting goods and commodities in bulk – is the backbone of the global supply chain.

And, despite the economic crisis of the last decade, seaborne trade continues to expand, bringing benefits to consumers across the world through competitive freight costs.

Even if you look outside the chemical and product tanker fleet, ships generally have never been so technically advanced, so sophisticated, never carried so much cargo, never been safer and never been so environment-friendly as they are today. It is thanks to this global fleet that the import and export of goods on the scale necessary to sustain the modern world can take place.

Sustainable economic growth, employment, prosperity and stability can all be enhanced through developing maritime trade.

This year’s World Maritime Day theme was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and global society and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping. The importance of shipping in supporting and sustaining today’s global society gives IMO’s work a significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.

People seem to overlook the fact that, without the circulation of goods and commodities in ships, the very fabric of modern society would crumble. If we focus on your world, for example, it is all too easy to let the somewhat negative connotations of the word “chemicals” obscure the fact that chemicals provide the world with such essentials as pharmaceuticals, detergents, insecticides and fertilizers, synthetic fibres and rubbers, and packaging materials, none of which we could do without.

This is a message that needs, and deserves, a wider audience. Almost everyone in the world today relies on shipping to some extent – but very few are aware of it. But now that the UN Secretary-General has highlighted it, perhaps it will gain more traction. We will certainly be doing our best to amplify this message during the course of the year and I hope you, too, will all join in this effort.

In conclusion, let me just reiterate that IPTA’s contribution to IMO’s work is greatly valued and much appreciated. We are partners, with shared goals and common objectives.

The issues we are engaged in affect not just the shipping world but the entire global community; and I feel very strongly that governments and the shipping community should be very proud of what they have achieved, through IMO, to ensure shipping has become progressively safer, cleaner and more efficient over many decades.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am determined to build on the good work of my predecessors and I know I can count on the support of the entire IMO family – including IPTA – as we work toward our shared objectives.

Thank you.


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