International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has delivered his New Year Address outlining some of the targets, challenges and priorities the IMO will face this year.
Speaking at the first meeting of the newly-formed IMO Subcommittee on Ship Design and Construction, Sekimizu said that this would be remembered as a challenging period in IMO’s history. (The full text of the speech can be downloaded here).
He reiterated his commitment to previously-stated targets of eliminating piracy and halving maritime casualties. He said he also hoped for further progress in the Accident Zero campaign, which he launched last year in conjunction with IALA (International Association of Lighthouse Authorities), and pledged further efforts to implement the Djibouti Code of Conduct with IMO’s partner organizations.
In the context of refugees and migrants, Sekimizu said that, in cooperation with relevant organizations such as the UN High Commission for Refugees, he would personally explore new ways to help prevent the unsafe transfer of large numbers of people by sea in small vessels which do not comply with the international safety regulations established by IMO.
Sekimizu recalled that he was speaking on the day of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the first ever Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), which was a direct response to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. He recalled the grounding of the Costa Concordia just two years ago and reiterated that lessons must be learnt from that casualty investigation report. In a clear message to delegates and the industry, he posed the question, “are we doing any better than our great grandfathers in our mission to enhance the safety of passenger ships?” In this context, he looked forward to the debate at this year’s Maritime Safety Committee meetings on the safety of large passenger ships, covering all aspects including, design, damage stability, operation and management.
Sekimizu also called for an accelerated investigation into the structural failure and eventual total loss of the containership MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean last year. This was a particular cause for concern, he felt, as this was a relatively new vessel.
Further, Sekimizu repeated his call of last year, made at IMO’s Future Ship Safety Symposium, for serious efforts to begin to develop a “new concept” of ship safety. This, he said, could be enshrined in a new SOLAS Convention to be adopted in 2024, which would mark 50 years since the adoption of the current SOLAS Convention – SOLAS 1974. Sekimizu urged IMO member governments and the shipping industry to put forward contributions on the subject for discussion at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee.
Other high-priority issues for this coming biennium highlighted by Mr. Sekimizu include:
• the smooth introduction of IMO’s new sub-committee structure
• preparation for the IMO’s mandatory Member State Audit Scheme
• implementation of goal-based standards for construction of tankers and bulk carriers
• adoption of a mandatory polar code during 2014
• handing over implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct to the signatory states and establishing a similar project for the Gulf of Guinea
• implementation of the EEDI
• entry into force criteria for the Ballast Water Convention to be met this year, so that it can be implemented before the end of this biennium, as well as
• bringing forward the study on availability of low sulphur fuel at the target year of 2020, to help bring about the global reduction of sulphur emissions from ship's exhaust.
Sekimizu pledged that he would also continue his review and reform efforts in order to ensure an even more efficient delivery from the IMO secretariat.