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The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Kitack Lim, has urged Member States to seize the opportunity to set bold and ambitious goals, when they adopt an initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping in 2018.

Speaking (full speech here) at the opening of the Organization’s 30th Assembly session, Secretary-General Lim told delegates the whole world would be watching IMO in 2018, looking for something of real substance.

“Next year really will be a time when the world will expect IMO Member States to deliver a clear vision as the first stage of the approved roadmap. I urge you, be bold; set ambitious goals that really will make a difference. You have a real opportunity here to do something of lasting significance. Make the most of it,” he told the packed plenary hall at IMO Headquarters in London. IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is set to adopt an initial GHG strategy in April 2018.

More than 1,500 delegates from IMO Member States, international governmental and non-governmental organizations have registered to attend the 30th session of the IMO Assembly meets from 27 November to 6 December.

Mr. Lim outlined the key elements of the new “Strategic Plan for the Organization” for 2018 to 2023, which is expected to be adopted by the Assembly.

“The seven strategic directions point us now towards more effective rule-making and implementation processes by integrating new and advancing technology to respond to our challenges, among others, to increase ship safety, including addressing new emerging technologies such as autonomous vessels, our contribution to combat climate change, engagement in ocean governance, mitigation of cyber-crimes, and facilitation of international trade, whilst continuing to take due consideration on the human element factor,” Mr. Lim said.

He highlighted his ambition to transform IMO into a “knowledge based Organization”, with appropriate analysis to support and improve the already effective rule making process and enhance implementation.

The rapidly increasing pace of change in every sphere raised a fundamental issue, since technology will move far quicker than the regulatory process, he said.

 

“Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon; and, when it does, IMO must be ready,” Mr. Lim said. “For me, this means the regulatory framework for shipping must be based firmly around goals and functions rather than prescriptive solutions. This is the only way to ensure that measures adopted by IMO are not rendered obsolete by the time-lag between adoption and entry-into-force. I know we have already made good steps in that direction but we must go further and faster in the coming years.”

The Organization as a whole needed to become more effective, more nimble and more adaptive, Mr. Lim said, drawing attention to his determination to push forward a "Knowledge based Organization" concept, embracing data in the Secretariat’s work and in the decision-making processes.

“We are in the era of digitalization and at the United Nations level we are already looking at frontier issues that include emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, and the benefits they could have in society as a whole, and to remain relevant,” Mr. Lim said.

“For IMO, we need to have more detailed and deeper analysis of statistics and data so that we can really understand underlying trends and causal factors behind shipping casualties; and we must make sure that additions and amendments to the regulatory framework are also based, wherever possible, on relevant statistics, studies and analysis. This would pave the way for better regulation, one that not only takes into account the work carried out to reduce administrative burdens, but to avoid disproportionate requirements, as well as addressing obsolete and unnecessary ones.”

IMO’s work to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals was also stressed. “Because most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy, aspects of IMO’s work can be linked to almost all of the individual SDGs,” Mr. Lim said.

Mr. Lim concluded by referring to the forthcoming anniversary in 2018, marking 70 years since the Convention establishing IMO was adopted in March 1948. “The theme we have selected for next year – “Our heritage – better shipping for a better future” – looks both at the past and into the next 70 years that lie ahead. It provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how IMO has adapted over the years as a crucial player to the global supply chain,” he said.

The Rt Hon Mr. John Hayes CBE MP, Minister of State for Transport Legislation and Maritime of the United Kingdom Government, also welcomed delegates to the Assembly, as the representative of the Host State.

The outgoing President of the Assembly, Mr. Federico Trillo-Figueroa y Martínez-Conde, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the United Kingdom and Permanent Representative of Spain to IMO, and the incoming President, His Excellency Mr. Rolando Drago Rodríguez, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Chile to IMO, also addressed the Assembly.

 

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