Ομιλία Υπουργού Οικονομίας, Ανταγωνιστικότητας και Ναυτιλίας, Λούκας Τ. Κατσέλη, κατά την χθεσινή 26η Σύνοδο του Διεθνούς Οργανισμού Ναυτιλίας (IMO)

20 Νοεμβρίου, 2009

Mr Secretary General, Mr President, Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for me to address the 26th session of the IMO Assembly, which will provide us with the opportunity to assess the work done in the last biennium, determine the international maritime agenda for the next two years and reaffirm our common trust to the Organisation’s mission and strategic directions. Undoubtedly, the present timing, in the mid of an unprecedented financial crisis, is of particular importance for the consideration of crucial aspects relating to international maritime transport, the most sensitive mode of transport globally.

At this point, I avail myself to the opportunity to inform the Plenary that as a consequence of the recent Parliamentary Elections held on the 4th of October 2009, it was decided to upgrade the status of the former Ministry of Merchant Marine, which is now a part of the newly created Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping. This political decision reflects the fundamental importance that the new Government attributes to Greek Shipping and its contribution to our national economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are aware, by the end of 2007, an unpredicted series of events began to unfold, which have had a dramatic effect on the other main driver of the shipping industry, the supply of debt capital. The adverse effects for the global economy as a consequence of the financial crisis have already been substantial. Debt is likely to become scarcer, more expensive for several years to come. Over the last months, the shipping industry has begun to feel the effects of the slowdown in world trade and the reduced demand for shipping services. Now the industry faces the additional problems created by the collapse of the global debt markets and the exit of many equity investors from shipping. Considering the fact that demand for ships is driven by the world economy and the resumption of growth remains uncertain, prudent financial management is needed.

The Government of Greece, representing one of the leading maritime nations attaches great importance to the economics of the shipping industry, in terms of cargo flows, supply and demand developments of the shipping market and financing. To deal with economic uncertainty and market volatility, a stable framework for the shipping industry is needed. And this framework is safeguarded and ensured only within the IMO.

In recent years, we have all witnessed the substantial work delivered by IMO for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, along with efforts for continuous enhancement of maritime safety, security and ships’ efficiency standards. The contribution of IMO to the international maritime community is indisputable.

In the area of the marine environment protection, it is worth mentioning the recent adoption of the Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, 2009 is an important move in the right direction. At this point, I would like to congratulate the IMO Secretariat as well as all Parties involved for their hard work, which led the international shipping community to such a successful and encouraging result.  Furthermore, remarkable progress is noted on the HNS Convention, the Protocol of which is expected to be adopted early next year after long and difficult discussions and mutual compromise by all parties involved.

There is no doubt that one of the most important, but also controversial, issues on the political agenda of today is the Climate Change Challenge. IMO has been fully committed to promoting the protection and preservation of our environment.

The recent developments and progress achieved in MEPC 59 regarding an Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships, a Ship Energy Management Plan for all ships as well as an Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator are considerable steps forward towards a viable and sustainable solution. We deem that the latter is expected to be complemented by potential market-based mechanisms which will effectively contribute to the financing of the developing countries on adaptation and mitigation projects.

In view of the forthcoming Conference in Copenhagen, namely the COP-15, on Climate Change, Greece will strongly support policies towards effective and viable solutions as regards the contribution of shipping to the reduction of GHG emissions from ships.  Bearing in mind that the IMO is the competent international body to pursue solutions for the shipping sector, its crucial role will be the undertaking and fulfilment of the mandate for the adoption and implementation of measures according to the ambitious, but achievable, action plan and regulatory framework for shipping at the global level. We firmly believe that this global regulatory framework should be clear, practical, transparent, non-distortive and easy to administer.

To this end, we fully support the orientation provided in the message of the Secretary General that it is a compelling need to work together in the framework of COP-15  in Copenhagen to succeed in our historical task. Needless to say, this work should be embedded on the fundamental presumption that for shipping, which is a global activity, only global measures can and should apply.

Distinguished delegates,

Another challenging problem that the international shipping community has faced over the last years is piracy. Piracy acts and threats against the safety of crew members and vessels sailing, in particular, off the coasts of Somalia have created serious concerns. In this context, IMO initiatives should be stressed, above all the persistent efforts made under the leadership of the Secretary General regarding the IMO contribution to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the protection of vital sea lanes as well as issues related to piracy and armed robbery against vessels.

Greece acknowledges the important role of IMO to raise the problem at the highest level, in the framework of the UN.  From the outset, Greece fully supported the initiatives taken by IMO as well as by the UN Security Council, while it was one of those States that actively joined the EU naval forces which still operate in the area.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that the present global recession has a direct impact on the shipping sector’s human resources. International shipping requires properly educated professionals to be employed at sea and eventually, at a later stage, on shore. In this context, we welcome the ongoing review of the existing maritime training and certification systems within the STCW context. It is oxymoron to have high percentages of unemployment at shore worldwide, while job vacancies exist throughout shipping.   One of the key challenges that we are facing today is to change perceptions and incentives so as to improve shipping’s image. We need to attract and keep highly skilled professionals in the industry. In this context, the World Maritime Day for the year 2010 which is dedicated to the “Seafarer”, fully complements IMO’s ongoing «Go to Sea!» campaign to attract new entrants to the shipping industry

Distinguished Delegates,

Greece attaches paramount importance to IMO’s aims, since it is the sole international organization with exclusive competence on maritime matters. I have every confidence that in the spirit of the 26th IMO Assembly, this is indeed the right time and place to pay tribute to IMO for its excellent services during the last 60 years. In this context, in 2008, Athens celebrated the World Maritime Day Parallel Event. The celebration of the Event in Greece, gave IMO the credit it deserves for its undeniably high contribution in safeguarding safety, security and environmental protection in international shipping.

Greece is one of the first States to accede to the IMO Convention. Since the Organization’s foundation it is an active member that participates constructively in all its deliberations. We are committed to continue to support the aims of the Organization and its workplan for the years to come.  On the issue of the IMO Budget, we have supported the proposals submitted by the Secretariat. We are convinced that any additional resources financed by appropriate increases of member contributions, would be for the benefit of all IMO Members. We fully support implementation of its ambitious programme for the next biennium and the programmes of technical assistance to developing countries.

With this in mind, I would like to reiterate our strong conviction that shipping needs international solutions and perspectives and to this end we should all join our efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greece is one of the world’s largest maritime nations and its shipping contributes substantially to the world’s sea-born trade.

Moreover, my country has a strong commitment to the aims of IMO and I truly believe that the successful conclusion of the 26th session of the IMO Assembly will give a positive impetus towards achievement of its mission.

I wish every success to the Assembly’s deliberations, which, I hope, will renew our recognition to the IMO role and make a strong contribution to its objectives.

Thank you for your attention.