IMO head outlines future challenges

Dec 01 2017

IMO secretary general, Kitack Lim, has urged member states to set bold and ambitious goals, when they adopt an initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from international shipping in 2018.

Speaking at the opening of the organisation’s 30th Assembly session this week, Lim told delegates the whole world would be watching IMO next year, 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 said.


IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is set to adopt an initial GHG strategy in April, 2018.


Lim outlined the key elements of the new ‘Strategic Plan for the Organisation’ for 2018 to 2023, which is expected to be adopted by the Assembly, which is sitting between 27th November and 6th December.


“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,” he said.


He highlighted his ambition to transform the IMO into a ‘knowledge based organisation’, 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 warned.



“Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon; and, when it does, IMO must be ready,” 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 organisation needed to become more effective, more nimble and more adaptive, Lim said.


“We are in the era of digitalisation 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.


“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,” he explained.


IMO’s work to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was also stressed. “Because most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realised 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,” Lim said. 


He concluded by referring to the 70th anniversary next year. “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.  


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