New push needed to enhance safety of passenger shipping, says UN maritime official

Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization. UN Photo/P. Filgueiras

27 September 2012 – As he marked World Maritime Day, the head of the United Nations agency mandated to ensure safety for shipping called today for enhanced safety measures that take account of changes in the industry.

“Each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and, regrettably, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement,” Koji Sekimizu, the Secretary-General of the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), said in his message for the Day.

“Our efforts to promote maritime safety, not least of passenger ships, will never stop. We should respond quickly to accidents and we must be proactive.”

Passenger-ship safety is embedded in the theme of this, the 35th World Maritime Day. “IMO: One hundred years after the Titanic” marks the ocean liner’s sinking on 14 April 1912.

“As we look back on that pivotal disaster 100 years ago, I urge IMO member governments and the shipping industry as a whole to refresh their determination to improve and enhance the safety of passenger shipping today, and into the future,” Mr. Sekimizu said.

“The lives of thousands of people are in the hands of the ship’s management, the captain and crew and the operating staff. I therefore hope that this sector, in particular, will take the opportunity to lead the way, because ‘safety’ is the main product – not comfort, entertainment or leisure.”

Mr. Sekimizu also warned that, without safety, the industry “will not survive, let along sustain its growth.”

“Real safety,” he added, “does not result simply as a consequence of regulation-compliance.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also referred to the Titanic tragedy in his World Maritime Day remarks, in which he saluted the achievements of the IMO, which emerged after the adoption of the first-ever International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) – two years after the Titanic’s sinking.

“Thanks largely to the IMO regulatory regime, shipping today is safer and more environmentally friendly than it has ever been,” Mr. Ban said, noting that regulations to ensure that all new passenger vessels are constructed to the highest possible standards were adopted by the IMO in 2006, and entered into force in 2010.

“A century after the Titanic was lost in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the IMO is striving to ensure continual improvement in safety at sea.”

The UN marked last year’s World Maritime Day by warning of the high costs piracy was imposing on the shipping industry. This year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stressed the importance of tackling the piracy problem off the Horn of Africa at its source: on dry land.

“Piracy is also an issue of social and economic development as well as the rule of law and security,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director. “This means adding UNODC’s expertise on drugs and crime and terrorism to the overall promotion of democratic development of countries in the region.”

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