THE Secretary-General of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Koji Sekimizu recently, reiterated the strategic role of maritime to the development of global economy on a sustainable basis.
Unveiling the 2013 World Maritime Day theme: “Sustainable development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20,” Sekimizu called on governments and the shipping industry to join hands and provide a positive contribution towards formulating sustainable maritime development goals.
He explained that as the United Nations’ international regulatory body for shipping, IMO has been and continues to be, the focal point for, and the driving force behind, efforts to ensure that the industry becomes greener and cleaner.
“I am confident that, through this initiative, the theme chosen by the IMO Council for the 2013 World Maritime Day, – “Sustainable development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20” – will be something in which IMO, the shipping industry and all other stakeholders, who are keen to turn the concept of sustainability into a tangible reality, will be able to join together and make a very positive contribution,” he said.
According to the global body, the development of sustainable development goals for the maritime transport sector, will be IMO’s own contribution to the United Nations led work on sustainable development goals held in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20), in June last year.
Sekimizu said that it was his intention to launch consultations on sustainable maritime development goals early this year, with a view to preparing a final policy document, which should include a clear concept of sustainable development for the maritime industries and realistic but ambitious goals.
Already, a task force established by Sekimizu has started work on eight pillars around which sustainable maritime development goals could be set.
The eight pillars are safety culture and environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, new technology and innovation coupled with maritime education and training.
Others are maritime security and anti-piracy actions, maritime traffic management, maritime infrastructure development and global standards at IMO.
Explaining further, Sekimizu said, “with shipping being so essential to the continued development and future growth of the world economy, IMO must continue to take the lead in supporting the shipping industry with the appropriate global standards and by helping to promote, through technical co-operation, the necessary national maritime transportation policy and institutional frameworks for a sustainable maritime transportation sector.”
Part of Sekimizu’s report read: “I should stress, too, that, at this stage, our plans are still developing. Nevertheless, I am very excited by the prospect of something that can provide a new direction for IMO in the future, and make a very positive and tangible contribution to the process established to develop UN-wide Sustainable Development Goals, as well as, to the well-being of mankind in the years ahead.
“We are all talking about sustainable development, but it was the Brundtland Report, released by the United Nations in 1987, that put forward what has become the most widely accepted definition of sustainable development, namely “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“Our understanding of sustainable development today embraces a concern both for the capacity of the earth’s natural systems and for the social and, not least, economic challenges faced by humanity.
“And, today, the United Nations is still the global leader pushing forward efforts to turn the concept of sustainable development into something tangible. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, in June last year, twenty years after the first such conference in the same city, the United Nations undertook an initiative to develop and set a series of Sustainable Development Goals.
“I was in attendance at what became known as Rio+20, and I used the event as a platform to draw attention to how shipping contributes significantly to three of the pillars of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental.
“I was very encouraged by the outcome document of the Conference, entitled ‘The Future We Want.’ This contains a number of specific areas of relevance to this organisation and international maritime transport, in general. I have, therefore, established an internal mechanism within my office, with support from all divisions, to work with our industry partners and interested stakeholders on the development and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals for the maritime transport sector, which will be IMO’s own contribution to the United Nations led work on Sustainable Development Goals.
“Such an initiative would exist both in parallel with, and as a contribution to, the wider efforts of the United Nations arising from Rio+20. IMO’s contribution should be seen as a pro-active response to the call by the then President of the United Nations Assembly, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, that the outcome document of Rio+20 “is not an end but a new beginning.”
Meanwhile, IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), the International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA), and the International Shipping Federation (ISF), recently, welcomed the recent decrease in the number of attempted and successful attacks against ships by Somalia-based pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean.
This decrease may be attributed to a combination of factors, including: the presence of naval forces disrupting pirate operations; implementation of self-protection measures on board merchant ships and better situational awareness of where the threats are; coupled with more effective action ashore in Somalia by the Somali authorities and the international community.
The Organizations therefore urge shipowners, shipping companies, ship operators, masters and crews to continue to take all appropriate and recommended measures to protect their ships and those on board from pirates and armed robbers, through sustained and full implementation of the relevant IMO guidance and industry-developed Best Management Practices for protection against Somalia-based piracy
Speaking at the opening of the IMO’s first meeting of the year, the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection, Sekimizu told delegates that it was his vision that having lives lost at sea and eradicating pirate attacks, as well as ensuring the release of all hostages can, and should, be legitimate targets, for the Organisation and for shipping in the years to come.
Mr Sekimizu said that the number of lives lost annually at sea has been over 1,000 for each of the past five years. Despite the difficulty in obtaining precise and reliable data for such losses, he said that approximate figures for 2012 included approximately 100 lives lost in the fishing sector, 400 in domestic operations, and around 500 in other categories, including international shipping*.
An ambitious, but achievable target, he said, would be to aim for a 50 per cent reduction, to no more than 500 lives lost annually, by 2015.
He said that the matter could be addressed at the IMO Symposium on Future Ship Safety in June, and went on to identify a number of mechanisms that could help the target to be reached, specifically:
• implementation of the Torremolinos Protocol through the Cape Town Agreement, to improve fishing vessel safety
• IMO’s Technical Cooperation activities in the field of domestic ferry safety
• the Secretary-General’s own initiative for an “Accident Zero” campaign, in conjunction with the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA).
He added that, in the first instance, IMO should consider establishing a mechanism for the collection and collation of statistics on lives lost to enable formal, official figures to be produced.
With regard to piracy attacks and hostage taking, Mr Sekimizu said that 2012 had been an encouraging year, having witnessed a sharp reduction in successful piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean. However, 12 ships and 159 people were, at the time of speaking, still in the hands of Somali pirates.
He said that complete eradication of piracy off the coast of Somalia and the release of all hostages would be more ambitious targets, but, nevertheless, should be the aim.
He identified continuous protection by navies in the Gulf of Aden, consistent application of Best Management Practices (BMP), and proper handling of armed security guards under national policies, taking into account discussions at IMO and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), as key factors in achieving the first of these.
With regard to the release of hostages, Mr Sekimizu welcomed the action taken by the Somali authority in Puntland to secure the release of the crew members of the MV Iceberg.
But, he added, that the release of all hostages as soon as possible should be a clear target and that more should be done towards this end.