IMO: PRESENT-DAY ACTIVITY AND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT
(Address by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, Odessa, 25 May 2007)
Rector, Minister, Ambassador Kharchenko, Chairman of the Academy's Supervisory Board, Professors, students, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to visit your beautiful and historic city once gain, although, I must confess, my first visit here goes back to 1979 (almost 28 years ago) and the second to 1983: both times on the occasion of seminars on the implementation of the STCW Convention. Since then, many changes have taken place in the world and in your country and these have not left Odessa behind, as I was able to witness in the short time since I have been here.
It is a great honour for me to receive this Honorary Doctorate from you today - from an Academy of universal recognition and repute, one that commands high esteem and respect among its peers worldwide. I do so with a mixture of pride and humility and, in return, I offer you my sincere and heartfelt gratitude. I have no doubt that, by bestowing this honour on me, you are also expressing your understanding of, and appreciation for, the work of the International Maritime Organization in establishing the necessary standards to support the vital role that shipping and its related industries play in, literally, underpinning the global society in which all of us today are active participants. And, of course, it goes without saying that this honour reflects on the tremendous support I receive from my colleagues in the IMO Secretariat and the Organization's Member Governments.
I have been asked to say a few words about IMO, the issues that are currently dominating our work programme and those that are likely to be driving our agenda in the future. The first thing to say, in this context, is that the huge variety and extent of our work is no easy task to describe!
Most of IMO's work is performed by five technical committees and nine sub-committees, under the direction of an Assembly of all our 168 Members and three Associate Members, as well as an elected Council of 40 States. Each IMO body has its own highly specialized and detailed work programme and the issues that might be uppermost in the mind of one sub-committee, at any given moment, might not even appear on the agenda of another - in-
deed, the closely defined nature of the subjects they deal with often precludes it.
The direct output of IMO's regulatory work is a comprehensive body of international conventions, supported by literally hundreds of guidelines and recommendations that, between them, govern just about every facet of the shipping industry. There is almost no aspect of shipping that is not governed or affected by the work of IMO, and the Organization's influence begins on the naval architect's drawing board and continues right up to the final disposal of a vessel - ideally at a well-managed and safe recycling facility that follows the related IMO guidelines.
Along the way, that influence will also be encountered in areas such as ship equipment, operation and manning; ship and port security; pollution prevention; spill cleanup; compensation for the victims of maritime accidents; search and rescue; and many, many more.
Nevertheless, despite the enormous diversity of the issues tackled by IMO, there are often certain themes that run across the entire gamut of the Organization's work, and these may reflect matters of concern to a wider audience, often beyond the shipping community itself.
At the moment, perhaps the most important issue facing mankind as a whole is the state of our planet. It seems that only recently have we come to understand that the earth, its resources and the environment that sustains us, are all part of a delicately-balanced mechanism and that, in developing the kind of industrialized society that many of us benefit from today, mankind has also developed, as a by-product, the ability to upset that balance with potentially catastrophic consequences. The question in the minds of all responsible citizens today is whether we have reached that understanding in time to do something positive about it. Let us pray that we have.
The preservation and protection of the marine, coastal and atmospheric environments have long been part of IMO's mandate. After all, shipping carries over 90 per cent of global trade and, as a result, fuel, food, commodities, component parts and finished goods - necessities and luxuries - all are carried by sea. Indeed, for the vast majority of cargoes there is simply no viable alternative and both the poor and the rich benefit from seaborne trade. Moreover, the nature of shipping is such that developing countries, and those with economies in transition, can and do become major participants in the industry itself, generating income and creating wealth by so doing.
Of necessity, however, shipping takes place in a particularly precious and vulnerable setting. Not only are the seas and oceans of the world worthy of protection for their own sake, they are also key components in the sustainability and preservation of the entire planet. Therefore, as befits a heavy industry operating in such a fragile yet, crucial, milieu, shipping has developed a clear sense of responsibility with regard to its environmental credentials. And as the international regulatory body for that industry, IMO has been, and continues to be, the focal point for, and the driving force behind, efforts to ensure that shipping becomes greener and cleaner.
When IMO first began to address environmental issues in the 1960s, the most serious problem at the time was the spillage of oil into the seas and oceans, either through accidents or poor operating practices. To tackle this effectively, in 1973, IMO adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known universally as MARPOL. Today, thanks to that treaty and other IMO measures, the amount of oil finding its way into the sea from ships has diminished to the point where estimates suggest that less than one teaspoon of oil is spilt for every million gallons transported; or, put another way, some 99.9996 per cent of all oil
transported by sea is delivered safely and without impact on the marine environment.
MARPOL has six annexes, which set out regulations dealing with pollution from ships by oil, noxious liquid substances carried in bulk, harmful substances carried in packaged form, sewage, garbage, and also air pollution. There can be no doubt that the measures put in place by IMO, through MARPOL and other instruments, have laid the foundation for substantial and continued reductions in operational and accidental pollution from ships and, this, despite a massive concurrent increase in world seaborne trade. As well as the matters I have just mentioned, IMO's environmental work embraces diverse issues such as the response to marine pollution; the management of the dumping of wastes at sea, of the use of harmful paints and coatings on ships' hulls, and of the inadvertent carriage of microscopic aquatic life-forms around the world in ships' ballast water; and the dismantling and disposal of ships once their economic lifetime is over. Measures have been developed to deal with all of these and many more of the hazards that shipping might pose to the global environment.
In this regard, Ukraine participates vigorously in IMO's regulatory work and, particularly with respect to the Black Sea, she has been at the forefront of relevant environmental developments, through her participation in several regional initiatives promoted by IMO and in recognition of the status of the Black Sea as an almost land-locked sea area with distinct ecological, environmental and scientific characteristics. Such initiatives include the designation of the Black Sea as a Special Area under Annexes I and V of MARPOL, respectively dealing with the prevention of marine pollution by oil and garbage from ships. A further initiative is IMO's GloBallast project, under which Ukraine - and, specifically, this beautiful city of Odessa - played a key role as a demonstration site, thereby helping to prepare the way for the effective and uniform implementation and enforcement of our Ballast Water Management Convention. Ukraine is also a participant in the Black Sea MoU on port State control, which is yet another initiative that supports the protection of the marine environment. For all these reasons, therefore, I encourage Ukraine to maintain and strengthen further her role and discharge her responsibilities as a conscientious contributor to the environmental integrity and preservation of the Black Sea.
But perhaps the most significant threat to our environment today concerns air pollution. And, once again, although the shipping industry is but a small contributor to the total volume of atmospheric pollution - compared to road vehicles, aviation and public utilities, such as power stations - emissions from ships' engines have been significantly reduced and IMO continues to work towards further reductions. Emissions of sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone-depleting substances and volatile organic compounds are, for example, limited by Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention, which is currently being revised to lower those limits still further, and also to regulate the emission of particulate matter.
And while the emission of so-called greenhouse gases - principally carbon dioxide (CO2) - is not yet regulated by any mandatory IMO instrument, the Organization has adopted an Assembly resolution on the subject, together with an action plan and timetable on further work to achieve the limitation or reduction of CO2 emissions from ships, in full recognition of the fact that such emissions are now widely accepted as being significant contributory factors towards global warming and climate change.
In summary, while there is an impressive track record of continued environmental awareness, concern, action, response and other relevant successes scored by IMO and the maritime community over many years, much still remains to be done. IMO continues to pursue a long-term strategy to ensure that shipping maintains and improves its contribution to global sustainability, a strategy that involves Governments, the shipping industry, environmental interests, engine manufacturers, oil producers, scientists and all other relevant interests, so that all parameters can be taken into account when the key decisions are made and implemented.
Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned earlier the huge and diverse range of topics on IMO's agenda, and, while our worries about the environment may currently be paramount, it is not the only issue that concerns us.
The safety of navigation, of ships and of the people who go to sea in them, will always be the major part of the Organization's work. The sea is a capricious and dangerous element and is still capable of taking human life, notwithstanding the enormous advances made in recent decades on ship design, construction and equipment and in technology and operating practices. In this context, the Safety of Life at Sea Convention - or SOLAS, as it is universally known - is the most important among many IMO instruments that regulate shipping safety and, ensuring such instruments are kept up to date and relevant, is a constant factor in the work of the Organization.
And that is why I was delighted that the IMO Council selected environmental issues to take centre stage in the theme for this year's World Maritime Day, which will feature in a host of other activities and initiatives, forming part of a concerted action plan that we have been undertaking, since January, to educate people; increase their awareness about the true and deteriorating state of the planet; and help us all to become more responsible citizens.
A case in point is the comprehensive set of amendments to SOLAS, to improve the safety of passenger ships, which was adopted last year following a mammoth and concerted effort by several IMO bodies. Another example is our ongoing work aiming at introducing a fundamental change in the philosophy underpinning the technical rule-making process, from a prescriptive approach, in which compliance relied on certain specific things being done, to a «goal-based» approach, in which the outcome is specified, but not necessarily the means by which it should be achieved. It is hoped that the greater freedom this subtle, but important, shift of emphasis enshrines will allow technical innovations to yield benefits more quickly.
Also in the context of the safety of navigation, I am pleased to inform you that, only last week, IMO convened a Diplomatic Conference in Nairobi, which successfully adopted a new Convention on the removal of potentially hazardous shipwrecks from the seabed - an instrument that will, therefore, also help with the protection of the marine and coastal environments.
A further safety reform is the review of the well known to you, I would expect, International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers, to make sure that it keeps pace with the latest techniques and technologies in the world of maritime training. Concurrently, we are also looking into areas such as training for maritime security and in the handling of LNG carriers, crew working hours, manning levels and fatigue.
On yet another front, maritime security - together with piracy, armed robbery, illicit drug trafficking, illegal migration, stowaways and illegal fishing - continues to be of great concern to IMO. In this respect, in 2002, we adopted, through SOLAS, a comprehensive range of security-related measures including the ground-breaking International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Since then, we have assisted many Governments to better understand and implement the new security regime and have also lent our support and encouragement to Governments that wish to work together to combat unlawful activities - such an approach has yielded considerable success, for example, in fighting piracy in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Meanwhile, in 2005, we adopted an amended Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (with a related Protocol), which establishes a legal framework for dealing with issues such as the seizure of ships by force, acts of violence against persons on board ships and the placing of devices on board a ship that are likely to destroy or damage it.
From this brief outline, you will, no doubt, appreciate the wide range of topics that IMO is currently addressing. As to the future, one thing I can definitely predict is that, whatever may arise, the need for an international body to regulate shipping - i. e. the need for IMO -will remain as strong as ever.
Shipping is perhaps the most globalized of all industries, and you only have to consider the ownership and management chain surrounding any particular vessel to realize how true this is. It is not unusual to find that the builders, owners, operators, managers, shippers, charterers, insurers and the classification society, not to mention the officers and crew, are all of different nationalities and that none of these are from the country whose flag flies at the ship's stern. Couple that with the fact that ships themselves spend their working lives travelling between different countries and different regions of the world, and the imperative for an internationally agreed and implemented regulatory regime becomes obvious. The alternative - a chequerboard of national or regional standards - would bring such a diverse industry to a standstill, and with that would come the end of global trade as we know it. And as a consequence, one half of the world would starve, while the other would freeze. It is simply unthinkable.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to conclude with a few words about IMO and its work in a broader context. IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations and, as such, is part of a family made up of numerous other organizations, programmes, funds and other bodies. The overall purposes of the United Nations system, as set out in the UN Charter, are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to co-operate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.
To know that we are part of such a broad-based effort, designed to achieve so many worthy objectives, is a source of permanent strength and encouragement to us, and we try to keep these aims constantly in the back of our minds throughout all our endeavors.
Today, we live in a society, which is supported by a global economy, which simply could not function if it were not for shipping. IMO plays a key role in ensuring that lives at sea are not put at risk and that the marine environment and the atmosphere are not polluted by shipping - ideals, which are summed up in IMO's mission statement: Safe, Secure and Efficient Shipping on Clean Oceans.
Let me, now, close by addressing the students: «Stay the course; work hard and try to benefit as much as you can from your formative years here at the Academy; and never shy away from taking pains to develop high standards of professionalism and integrity. I wish you a successful completion of your studies and, thereafter, calm seas and fairwinds. We are proud of you.» Thank you.
Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos
Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos of Greece is the seventh Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency concerned with maritime safety and security and the prevention of marine pollution from ships.
Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos was elected Secretary-General of the Organization by the ninetieth session of the IMO Council on 18 June 2003 and his appointment was approved by the twenty-third regular session of the IMO Assembly on 27 November 2003. He will serve the Organization as its Secretary-General for an initial four-year term, starting 1 January 2004.
Efthimios (Thimio) E. Mitropoulos was born in Piraeus, Greece, on 30 May 1939, to a genuinely maritime family, being the son of a merchant navy chief engineer officer father and of a mother the daughter of a shipmaster and owner of brigantines and schooners captained by his sons. The family comes from Galaxidi, a major Greek maritime centre during the tall ships' era.
After six years of secondary school studies at the «St. Paul» French College in Piraeus, Mr. Mitropoulos graduated chief of his class with record marks in all lessons.
In 1957 he entered the Aspropyrgos Merchant Marine Academy and, in 1958, was appointed Captain of the Academy. He graduated with honours in 1959 as chief of his class.
Between 1959 and 1962, he served as apprentice, second and chief deck officer on merchant ships on voyages around the world and, in 1962, he entered the Hellenic Coast Guard Academy as chief of his class. He graduated in 1964, again as chief of his class with honours.
He then started his career as a commissioned Coast Guard Officer in Corfu, first and Piraeus, later. He retired with the rank of Rear Admiral.
In 1965 he won a scholarship to study shipping economics in Italy (Rome, Venice and Genoa) and in 1970 he was selected to study marine technology (fire protection and life-saving appliances) in the United Kingdom (Lloyd's Register of Shipping).
Mr. Mitropoulos' association with IMO goes back to 1965 when he first represented Greece at the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection in December of that year.
Between 1966 and 1977 he participated, initially as a member and later as Head of the Greek Delegation, in the work of various Sub-Committees and the Maritime Safety Committee of IMO (which he served also as vice-chairman and chairman of working groups). He also participated in the work of the Council and the Assembly as well as at the 1972 Collision Regulations and 1974 Safety of Life at Sea Conferences convened by IMO, where he was elected first Vice-Chairman of the Technical Committee of both. He attended the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1975-1977) as the representative of the Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine at the multi-ministerial Greek delegation.
During his service with the Greek Maritime Administration, he also participated at meetings of ILO, UNCTAD, OECD and the Consultative Shipping Group. Between 1972 and 1976, he regularly lectured at the Hellenic Coast Guard Academy and the Greek Master Mariners' Centre of Superior Studies on shipping economics and policy and maritime safety/safety of navigation subjects, respectively.
Between 1977 and 1979 he was Harbour Master of Corfu, with responsibility for the sea area surrounding Corfu and all the nearby Greek islands from the safety, security and environmental protection points of view.
Author of several books on shipping economics and policy, categories/types of merchant vessels, safety of navigation and other shipping-related matters. His book on «Tankers: Evolution and technical issues» won first prize at a pan Hellenic competition to mark the Year of Shipping, 1969.
Mr. Mitropoulos joined the IMO Secretariat in January 1979 as Implementation Officer in the Maritime Safety Division and in October 1985 was appointed Head of the Navigation Section. In 1989 he was promoted to Senior Deputy Director for Navigation and Related Matters and in May 1992 was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division. In that capacity, he acted as Secretary of the Maritime Safety Committee.
In May 2000, he was designated Assistant Secretary-General, retaining his duties as Director of the Maritime Safety Division.
Mr. Mitropoulos lectures regularly at the World Maritime University on safety-related matters.
His interests include swimming and diving, fishing, football, classical music and reading, in particular naval history.
Mr. Mitropoulos is married and has one son and one daughter.
Honours and memberships:
• Military Valour and Phoenix Order medals of the Hellenic Republic
• Commendatore, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
• St. Marcus Cross, Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa
• Doctor Honoris Causa, Nicola Vaptsarov Naval Academy, Varna, Bulgaria
• Doctor Honoris Causa, Maritime University, Constanza, Romania
• Honorary Citizen of Galaxidi, Greece
• Honorary Member of the Hellenic Institute of Marine Technology and the Shipmasters' Union of Greece
• Fellow, Royal Institute of Navigation
• Honorary Fellow, Nautical Institute
• Governor, Royal National Lifeboat Institution
• Member, Royal Automobile Club.
• Honorary Doctor of Science Odessa National Maritime Academy, Ukraine