Mr President, your excellencies, Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen it gives me great pleasure on behalf of Her Majesty’s government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to welcome you to London for the 28th assembly of the International Maritime Organization.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his words this morning (25 November 2013) and his leadership of the organisation.
Before I begin, I would like to echo the words of the Secretary-General to the distinguished delegation of the Philippines.
All our thoughts are with those who have suffered such devastation, lost loved ones and, in particular, the seafarers who are currently serving at sea and are unable to be with their families during this difficult time.
On behalf of Her Majesty’s government, please pass on my sincere condolences to your government.
Over the last two years I have had the great pleasure of meeting many of you here today (25 November 2013) and that has given me the chance to understand the challenges facing shipping and the vital role of the organisation in meeting them.
So it is a particular privilege for me to address you this morning.
As an island nation, we are a seafaring nation and are proud of contribution to the safety at sea.
Next year we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Trinity House, just down river in the shadow of the Tower of London, that was established by King Henry VIII to improve the safety and welfare of mariners using Britain’s ports.
It was the member of Parliament for Derby, Samuel Plimsoll, who deeply concerned by increasing losses of life at sea, fought for maritime safety.
It was his campaign that led to the legal requirement for the Plimsoll line to be marked on all ships, a measure that went on to be adopted globally the first Load Line Convention, that was held right here in London.
And it was in London almost a century ago that the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was adopted and established the principle that the most effective way to improve maritime safety was through international agreement.
On those foundations, since 1958 the IMO has transformed maritime safety and done so much to minimise marine pollution.
The size of the global merchant fleet has increased by almost 1 million tons in the last 30 years and world seaborne trade has almost quadrupled in the last 40, while thanks to work of the IMO, the number of maritime casualties is falling.
But as long as, to use Shakespeare’s words, ‘ships are but boards, sailors but men and there is the peril of waters, winds and rocks’ there will be the need for the organisation.
That’s why in the 21st century we remain immensely honoured that the IMO calls London its home and I am delighted to welcome you to this important assembly.
Before we embark on the next biennium, it is appropriate that we acknowledge the achievements of the last.
First, the organisation’s response to the Costa Concordia incident. I believe that the proposals that the organisation has identified will improve the safety of passengers and crew and I am grateful for the close involvement of the industry in this process.
Second, the production of guidance for private maritime security companies and the collaboration with the International Standards Organisation will ensure firms that deter piracy will meet a standard that will be the global benchmark.
I am very pleased on behalf of my predecessor - Mr Penning - that this assembly is being asked to adopt a resolution on the Preservation and Collection of Evidence following an allegation of a serious crime on board a vessel.
This issue was raised by the UK, among others, at the last assembly and that we are ready to adopt these guidelines is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of many of you here today (25 November 2013).
The challenge for all successful organisations is how to maintain their performance while simultaneously renewing themselves so they face the future not the past.
By streamlining administration and consolidating the work programme of the organisation, ‘The review and reform programme’ will make significant steps towards ensuring the IMO is efficient and forward looking.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the chairman of the committees and sub-committees, the secretariat and interpreters and the many officials who attend IMO with their delegations for your hard work, without you the IMO would not hold the status it does within the United Nations.
Mr President, your excellencies, Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen, today the biggest challenge we face is economic.
As a result of the 2008 financial crisis world per capita output, which typically expands by about 2.2% annually, contracted by 1.8% in 2009.
Global exports fell by around 12% in 2009.
This was the largest contraction of the global economy since the Second World War.
While the world economy is now recovering, this is uneven.
The IMF predict that in the next decade the current fast growing countries share of global GDP will increase from about half to nearly two-thirds.
So in a world in which more people, in more countries will become part of the global economy, shipping will be more important to economic growth, not less.
Simply put, shipping is an engine for growth.
The OECD estimates every tonne of port throughput is produces around 100 dollars of economic value added and every million tonnes of port activity creates 300 jobs in the region.
That’s why countries across the world are investing in their ports capacity to take advantage with global capacity almost doubling in just 9 years.
That makes this meeting and our work over the next biennium critical.
Our work over the next biennium must continue to focus on ensuring the industry is safe, is clean and develops a highly skilled, highly trained workforce.
However, we need to recognise that, as times change, some regulations can become ineffective and unnecessary. Complying with them costs businesses time and money, and can restrict growth.
Regulations also need to be applied consistently or they could create the perception of unfairness and an unwillingness to engage in international cooperation.
I’m reminded of the story told by Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of India’s central bank, that there is a regulation that all factories in Uttar Pradesh are still required to have snake traps. When the rule came into force the factories were surrounded by dense jungle, now - of course - they are in the city.
So I want to suggest 3 principles that should guide our thinking over the next biennium:
First, is the proposed regulation transparent enough? With a ship’s life cycle being in the region of 25 to 30 years, the maritime industry is particularly vulnerable to changes in legislation and standards. Have we asked whether industry knows why what is proposed is necessary, have they been engaged in its development and are we providing time to plan and adapt?
Second, is the regulation proportionate to what we need to achieve? We should work to ensure that regulation encourages economic progress and only intervene when there is a clear case for protection. Do we know whether it is possible to incentivise change more quickly and effectively than mandating it?
Third, is the proposed regulation fair? For regulation to be effective it needs to be developed and adopted in such a way that regulations are accepted by all, promote a level playing field and reduce barriers to trade. So we should ask ourselves is the burden of a proposed regulation shared fairly between industry and government and between countries and regions?
Mr President, Mr Secretary-General, distinguished delegates.
Fifty-six years ago our forbears met for the first time. Half a century a later, the work of the International Maritime Organization assembly over the coming days will be as vital as it ever has been: for the safety, environmental protection and security of our seas, for the seafarers who work on them, and, for the millions of people whose jobs and lives rely on efficient seaborne trade.
In conclusion, 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 continue to contribute to the critical work of the organisation over the next biennium.
I have no doubt that our discussions over the next 2 weeks will be challenging but productive.
And I hope that you find time in between to enjoy London.
Finally, I look forward to greeting as many of you as possible at our reception on the evening of 3 December.