1. You have been reelected for a four-year until the end of 2023, what are your main priorities?
Looking ahead, I can see five clear areas of focus that stand out from all the others. These will be achieved by continuing the collaborative and cooperative work that is the hallmark of IMO, providing a forum for its Member States, along with other stakeholders, to discuss the policy issues at hand. These will also be achieved through the long-running program of technical cooperation, bringing capacity building and training to developing countries. The first key area of focus is addressing the biggest single challenge we all face, and this is climate change. We need to address GHG emissions from ships. The Initial IMO Strategy on reducing GHG emissions from international shipping has tangible ambitions which, in real terms, represent a reduction of emissions of over 80% for ships currently trading. The focus now has turned to the detailed work needed to achieve these ambitions, which will continue in 2020 and beyond. This Strategy is helping to drive shipping’s transformation towards a sustainable, decarbonized future. To deliver the Strategy, significant numbers of zero-carbon ships, or ships that can be easily adapted to use low or zero carbon fuels, will have to enter the fleet as early as the 2030s.
New technologies and new fuels will be vital if our targets are to be met. I am certain that these ambitious regulatory targets will act as the catalyst for technology, triggering research, development and innovation. While research into developing zero-carbon marine fuels is under way - with hydrogen, ammonia or biofuels considered viable options - more action is needed to speed-up this process. To achieve this, IMO is stepping up its efforts to act as the global forum and promoter of R&D in zero-carbon marine fuels, bringing together interested stakeholders from around the world. To achieve our goals, there is a need for collaboration of governments, shipping industry, the financial sector as well as all other relevant stakeholders.
Second: the 0.5% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil, which is now in place. It is vital that this measure is smoothly and universally implemented so that the full benefits can be felt. Our focus now is on the successful implementation and enforcement of the prohibition of the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship - unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system (“scrubber”) fitted, that entered into force 1 March 2020. In this regard, IMO will be monitoring the developments closely and will continue to work with Member States and the industry to support implementation of these regulations.
Third: digitalization. Digitalization, big data, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics have the potential to take shipping and the maritime community into a bright new future. We need to integrate new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework - balancing the benefits derived from these technologies against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on international trade facilitation, the potential costs to the industry, and their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore.
Fourth: efficiency of shipping. We are looking at strengthening our work to make shipping a more integrated and more efficient part of the global supply chain. IMO is working to ensure the adoption of technologies that increase the connectivity and efficiency of working practices in maritime transport and ship management; be it in marine communications or the exchange of information in the ship-to-ship as well as the ship-to-shore interfaces.
Cooperation and communication between shipping, ports and logistics will be vital to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of shipping and therefore facilitate trade and foster economic growth and prosperity.
Fifth: seafarers. The wellbeing of over 1.6 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day to deliver goods to the populations around the world is, and will remain, a high priority throughout my second term as Secretary-General. Their health, education, safety and legal protection are vital issues for us - and, I can assure you, for the shipping industry, as well. I have pledged to ensure that maritime personnel are always one of the first considerations in any measures that are debated and adopted at IMO. I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime theme, which is “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet”. The theme is intended to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, and showcase the work that IMO is undertaking to achieve the targets set by the SDGs.
The year 2020 will mark the beginning of a decade of action and delivery for the SDGs, not only for shipping but for the global community as a whole. The shipping industry, supported by IMO’s regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards a sustainable future through the adoption and continuous development of measures to address very important issues, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the lower sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, the protection of the polar regions, the safety of fishing vessels and the wider participation of women in the maritime community.
2. IMO has taken big steps under your leadership. With regards to digitalization, approving an initial set of guidelines for the conduct of autonomous ship trials is one of them. What will be the next measures - what else is being addressed in terms of digitalization?
Certainly, as mentioned already, the digital revolution is hugely important and is going to have a big impact on shipping. Indeed, I would say that digital disruption has already arrived in the shipping world. Advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, e-navigation and big data will usher in structural changes and will impact on communications as well as navigation among ships. This will lead to new generations of ships that bring step change improvements in all the areas that IMO regulates. E-navigation and related concern regarding cyber security are already on IMO’s agenda.
Fully autonomous ports and semi-autonomous ships are already close to becoming a reality in some countries and we have seen trials of fully autonomous ships. However, they have mainly been very small ships or very short voyages. It is important to take these developments on board and consider their implications.
IMO is undertaking a comprehensive regulatory scoping exercise into maritime autonomous surface ships, also known by the acronym MASS. This scoping exercise considers all current regulations in specific conventions and aims to look into how we integrate these new and advancing technologies into IMO instruments. In 2019, IMO issued approved Interim guidelines for MASS trials. Risks associated with the trials should be appropriately identified and measures to reduce them should be put in place. This includes taking steps to ensure sufficient cyber risk management of the systems and infrastructure used when conducting MASS trials.
Meanwhile, digitalisation can have great benefits for the logistics and supply chain. In April 2019, an important new requirement entered into force under the Facilitations Convention, making it mandatory for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports. The Facilitation Convention encourages the use of a “single window” for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication. This is a key measure for ports to implement and we are ready to support any country which needs assistance to fully implement the requirements and which may wish to develop a single window system, for example, using source code developed under an IMO-Norway project in Antigua and Barbuda. I am keen to strengthen our work to make shipping a more integrated and more efficient part of the global supply chain.
I do believe that we should support increased digitization across the world, and not just in those advanced ports which already are highly automated. We are also supporting work to develop and harmonize international standards for operational data in ports, including for berth to berth navigation, the ship-port interface and the end-to-end supply chain. Of course, we have to remain vigilant about all security risks and there is no doubt that the increased automation and digitalization of shipping means that cyber risk management is more important than ever.
Cyber risk has to be part of safety management plans. IMO has issued guidance on this and we will continue to keep this on our agenda.
3.Following you proposal, the Council endorsed theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” as the World Maritime Day theme for 2019. Why did you propose this theme? First let me say that the 2019 IMO World Maritime Theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” really helped raise awareness of the importance of gender equality. It highlighted the important - yet under-utilized - contribution of women within the maritime sector. Many maritime stakeholders enthusiastically took up the theme at numerous seminars, conferences and panel discussions. Throughout the year, IMO worked with various maritime stakeholders to help create an environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in administrations, ports and maritime training institutes and to encourage more conversation for gender equality in the maritime space.
IMO’s Women in Maritime programme pushed forward with numerous activities, including premiering a new film, launching online profiles of women in the maritime sector and providing support to the Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) launched through the programme.
At the end of 2019, the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution urging further firm action in coming years to advance gender equality throughout the maritime sector and to reach a barrier free environment. A number of actions can help progress towards gender the resolution.
They include addressing any barriers and obstacles that still exist and fostering a safe environment for women in the maritime sector. We need more sharing of best practices in achieving gender equality. And we need more data. We need to collect, consolidate and analyse data relating to the participation of women in the maritime sector, to establish baselines, identify gaps and inform policies aimed at removing barriers and increasing female participation in the sector.
I am pleased to say that IMO and the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA International) have initiated a study to establish numbers of women across several maritime sectors.
I am positive that we can continue the momentum of 2019 and keep pushing forward to create a barrier-free environment for women - and help facilitate the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) 5 on gender equality.