It is a great honour and privilege for me to address such a distinguished audience at the 31st Regular Session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organisation.
First and foremost, the Assembly is an opportunity for all of us to step back and take stock of all that has been achieved during the last biennium; and what a biennium it has been! Looking back at the last two years, I think no one can deny the sheer volume of work done and the ample ground covered by every single Committee in every single aspect relevant to international shipping. But of course, what sets this last biennium apart is not the volume of work done, but the number of hugely important milestones achieved. Milestones, which five or ten years ago no one would have even thought possible. However, today, they have become a reality on a global level, with member states committing to their effective and efficient implementation within the agreed timelines.
Warm congratulations to the Secretary General and secretarial of the IMO and to each and every member state taking part in the continuous endeavour for greener and smarter shipping, with positive, tangible results.
The IMO was, is, and justly remains, the entrusted umbrella Organisation regulating shipping on a global level; a position which it has served extremely well in the last two years, and which I am sure it will continue to serve with equal enthusiasm and effectiveness in the years to come.
[Sustainable Development Goals-2030 Agenda]
In January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Although the 2030 Agenda will essentially be implemented at country level, we note with appreciation the involvement and contribution of the IMO to the development of maritime policies supporting the needs of member states.
International shipping is vital for socioeconomic development on a global level, especially for developing, least developed and Small Island States. Therefore, it is imperative, while enhancing safety, security and protection of the environment, to maintain shipping as a financially competitive mode of transport. This has been, and should continue to be taken into consideration in all forms of regulation that the IMO introduces over the years.
The upcoming implementation of the 2020 Sulphur Cap Regulation is a milestone decision of the IMO, which will have a significant positive effect on the environment and human health.
We acknowledge the concerns of the industry regarding safety and availability of compliant fuel and we sincerely hope that this will be overcome smoothly. Cyprus commits to contributing constructively towards this effort.
[Reduction of Green House Gas Emissions from Ships]
The substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in particular of carbon dioxide emissions from ships is extremely important for Cyprus, not only due to our large merchant fleet and the size of our island nation, but mostly because of the devastating effects climate change and global warming have on our planet and our lives.
The International Maritime Organisation has dealt with this challenging issue very boldly and effectively. The adoption and implementation of the IMO’s Strategy for the reduction of Green House Gas emissions from ships, speaks for itself as a prime example of this.
We believe that the work done by IMO, thus far, in relation to the efforts for reduction of Green House Gas emissions from ships, is an excellent example of the Organisation’s proactive response to the challenges lying ahead. The adoption of a comprehensive IMO strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships was the first step in a long-term vision we have all set forth; however, significant work is still required in order to reach the much-anticipated outcome.
It is therefore of paramount importance that all stakeholders continue to work constructively towards the implementation of the next steps, so that this vision becomes a reality, meeting the Paris Agreement goal of well below 2°C temperature. We believe that Cyprus has been working constructively, with active involvement in the discussion, submission of papers and consideration of a number of different options and solutions in collaboration with all IMO members. We are absolutely committed to continue our endeavours for the timely implementation of the strategy and the achievement of all of its objectives.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the same time, we must always have in mind that shipping is a people’s industry. Our people are not only our most important asset; they are also entrusted with the difficult task of ensuring both safety and excellence of service. Without the appropriate education and continuous professional training, our people on land and at sea will find it difficult to cope with the changing demands, growing needs, increased regulatory requirements and the complex tools they must learn to use. As the skill sets necessary become more diverse and more specialised, we must be able to provide seafarers with quality education and training that motivate and empower them.
We have an ethical responsibility and a duty to identify and develop common initiatives and attractive conditions to encourage new generations to embrace the seafaring profession and to promote seafarer employment and enhance the attractiveness of the sector.
Shipping is all about global cooperation, communication, the enhancement of our standard of living; it is the main connector between many different and faraway parts of the world. We must protect and enhance the well-established and comprehensive, international regulatory regime from which we all benefit. We must continue to deliver by far the world’s cleanest and least polluting service for the mass transport of cargoes. And we must, of course, ensure that the credibility, the visibility and the reputation of the international shipping industry reflects its immense contribution to the global economy and the global community.
Challenges such as overcapacity, low cargo rates, piracy, cyber security, political uncertainties, as well as the growing need for environmentally friendly solutions, all create pressure on margins and threaten sustainability. Yet, solutions exist where open dialogue and collaboration is encouraged, as proven many a time by the IMO, particularly with the drive towards environmentally sustainable shipping. We could not be more proud and more appreciative of the great results achieved to date in this regard.
Technology is yet another double-edged sword: at once an opportunity and a challenge. While simpler procedures, cost savings, efficiency and minimisation of errors are major benefits of smart shipping, the huge potential impact of cyber threats creates the need for embedding advanced technologies in the appropriate regulatory and administrative framework. Again, this is an area where the IMO, as our umbrella organisation, can and, I believe, will, play a key role. The clear message to the world is that shipping welcomes and embraces innovation, while accepting, at the same time, the responsibility for risk management and robust controls.
Yet, despite its central role, the IMO cannot work on its own. A Sustainable maritime transportation system requires well-organised Administrations that cooperate internationally and promote compliance with global standards. We know for a fact that our challenges will intensify and our responsibilities will increase as international seaborne trade increases.
So, our role is crucial in ensuring consistency and compliance, while we need to be responsible, proactive, creative and positive.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Allow me before closing, to say a few words about Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality. It was with great pleasure that we welcomed this year’s World Maritime Theme – Empowering Women in the Maritime Community, which provided the platform to raise awareness on the important role and contribution of women within the sector.
Cyprus wholeheartedly supports the IMO’s efforts to enhance the role of women in the maritime sector, both at shore-based as well as in sea-going posts, promoting this at national level. With enhanced diversity and equal opportunity to competent individuals of both genders and of all backgrounds, the sector can meet sustainable goals more quickly and more effectively. We welcome the Organisation’s actions on this matter and pledge to offer our support in every way we can.
[IMO Secretary General]
Four years ago, this Assembly entrusted the post of Secretary-General to Mr. Kitack Lim. I have to say that both I and the Cyprus Government are extremely pleased by the excellent collaboration with Mr. Lim. His work so far is commendable and the array of important initiatives he has promptly taken on all important issues concerning our industry is remarkable.
We also recognise the quality and dedication of the members of the secretariat and their continuous efforts to support member states.
With these thoughts I would like, once more, to express my gratitude for this opportunity to address the 31st Regular Session of the Assembly. I wish all of us successful and fruitful discussions during the next days.
Thank you, Mr. President.