Mr President, Your Excellencies, Secretary-General, distinguished delegates.
On behalf of Her Majesty’s government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I welcome you to London for the 29th Assembly of the International Maritime Organization.
The United Kingdom is immensely honoured to host the IMO.
It’s a privilege we take very seriously.
So it’s a pleasure to address you this morning.
Can I start though by offering my profound condolences to the distinguished delegation of France in light of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who were killed and injured.
And we stand shoulder to shoulder with France in the fight against those who wish to impose their barbaric values on the rest of the world.
Their actions only serve to make us stronger.
The maritime industry has always had global reach.
In fact it gave birth to the global economy.
Currently over 80% of global trade is moved by ship.
And by 2030, sea trade is predicted to double.
So we’re facing great opportunities, but also great challenges.
By bringing the international maritime industry together, the IMO will help us take advantage of those opportunities, while also helping us meet those challenges.
And that’s something we are focused on today (23 November 2015), as we look forward to the new biennium, but also as we reflect on the achievements of the past 2 years.
Highlights of past biennium
So, what achievements stand out?
Firstly, I congratulate the IMO on the adoption of the ‘Polar code’.
It will not only improve safety, but also help protect the environment of both polar regions.
It showed the organization responding in a timely manner to emerging opportunities for shipping in these regions.
The United Kingdom was pleased to contribute, just as we were pleased to chair the intercessional working group which finalised the amendments to MARPOL ahead of the code’s launch.
Another noteworthy achievement was the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks.
We are very grateful for this important convention, which clarifies responsibilities around the reporting, locating and removal of wrecks.
Since February, my officials have issued over 11,000 wreck certificates — of which only 800 were for UK registered ships.
The growth of the World Maritime University has been another highlight.
And the United Kingdom was delighted to attend the inauguration of the new premises in Malmö earlier this year.
We continue to provide visiting professorships at the World Maritime University.
To contribute to the education of the next generation of maritime experts.
I think we can all agree that for our industry to thrive we must have a good source of suitably qualified personnel.
So it was fitting that this year’s theme for World Maritime Day was maritime education and training.
And finally I’d like to mention the recent adoption of the ‘IGF code’ which will provide a sound regulatory framework so we can use emerging, cleaner fuel technologies safely and effectively.
Of course these — and many other IMO successes — came under the leadership of Mr Sekimizu (Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization).
But the move to a new biennium marks the end of Mr Sekimizu’s time at the organization.
I’m sure you will all have plenty of opportunity to thank him during this assembly.
But I would like to offer my personal thanks and appreciation for his huge contribution to the IMO — and wish him well in his retirement.
As we look to the future, it’s vital that we act together.
That’s what the IMO is all about.
Partnership and co-operation.
Mass migration by sea, in particular the current crisis in the Mediterranean, is something the international community must tackle.
We must redouble efforts to end the loss of migrants’ lives at sea.
But we must also keep working with the countries of origin and transit so they’re better placed to deal with the problem at source.
We welcome the UN Security Council’s adoption, in October this year, of resolution 2240 to deter the smuggling of migrants.
Multi-agency collaboration is key — as demonstrated by the Rescue at Sea guide produced by Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, IMO, and United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees.
The UK is providing humanitarian assistance to help as many refugees as possible in the region.
And we continue to support joint efforts under Frontex Operation Triton — the border security operation conducted by Frontex, the European Union’s border security agency.
We would also like to thank our Mediterranean colleagues, particularly Italy, Greece and Malta, for their dedication in responding to the crisis, and also the hugely valuable contribution of merchant shipping.
As we look forward to the next biennium and beyond there are further challenges and opportunities facing the organization.
Boosting world trade is essential to raise standards of living everywhere.
And while we recognise the importance of the technical work of the IMO, we must not forget our obligation within the convention to remove unnecessary restrictions on global shipping.
I believe that the International Maritime Organization is the right body to regulate the world’s maritime industries.
With this in mind, I welcome the organization’s work on the review of administrative requirements.
The consultation showed the desire of the IMO to be open and outward-looking.
It is only when we hear the views of all stakeholders that we are in a position to make sound and informed decisions.
The review has come up with a number of recommendations, some of them challenging.
But the IMO can rise to the challenges it has set itself in the coming biennium, and beyond, to ensure regulations are effective and fit for purpose.
It is essential that government and the industry work together to design proportionate regulation that maintains competition, that protects the marine environment from pollution, and that keeps shipping safe and secure.
Any regulation must reflect the international nature of the maritime sector.
Radically different rules for different parts of the world seldom make sense.
Most of the time they’re inefficient and expensive and they can lead to perverse incentives.
We are also encouraged by the progress made in the council reviewing the current strategic framework and establishing a new strategic plan.
The UK believes that the new framework should be clear and straightforward, and lead the IMO toward future biennia.
We will continue to take a leading role in this work.
In particular, helping ensure that right tools are applied to evaluate the potential impacts of new regulations.
Our shared commitment must be to create a level and competitive playing field, promoting clear regulations, and removing regional obstacles to fair trade.
Fair and effective enforcement is key.
Another significant step for the organization is the beginning of the Mandatory Member State Audit Scheme next year, which again demonstrates the organization’s wider vision beyond its immediate sphere of influence.
We are all aware of the very important meeting of COP 21 which begins next week.
The IMO has already made great progress on climate change through its energy efficiency design index and the ship energy efficiency management plan.
And then there is the IMO’s work on developing a global data collection system which will inform future technical and operational measures for shipping.
The IMO is the organisation which can address the climate change impacts of international shipping, working in partnership with other members of the United Nations family, but retaining its responsibility for maritime transport.
The anticipated growth of world trade will increase shipping activity.
And we also expect to see further modal shift towards shipping.
We strongly support the work of the IMO to achieve a higher level of energy efficiency in the world fleet, thereby reducing the climate change impact of every tonne of cargo carried on every voyage by every individual ship.
Before I finish, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who make the IMO a success and uphold its positive status within the United Nations.
These include the chairmen of the Committees & Sub-Committees, the Secretariat and Interpreters and of course you, the many officials who attend IMO with their delegations.
Without you, the IMO would not have the reputation it enjoys.
Mr President, Mr Secretary-General.
I would also like to thank you for inviting me to address this esteemed audience today.
And on behalf of Her Majesty’s government I wish you all a productive and enjoyable stay in London.
Finally, I would like to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to both the work of the IMO and our honoured role as host government.
We will — of course — continue to contribute to the critical work of the organization over the next biennium.
And I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the UK’s reception on the evening of December 1st.