Secretary-General's Message for 2012
When the passenger liner Titanic departed from Southampton on 10 April 1912 on her first transatlantic voyage, no one could imagine the drama that would unfold over the next four days. After the ship hit an iceberg and sank, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, the story of that ill-fated ship became etched forever in the public consciousness.
Undoubtedly the most important legacy of the Titanic disaster was an urgent acceleration in the process of setting and implementing international standards and procedures for maritime activity. The first international conference on the safety of life at sea was held in London in January 1914. Its outcome – the Convention on Safety of Life at Sea – remains the leading international treaty on maritime safety. The task of keeping it updated, and maintaining its development in light of technological advances, falls to a United Nations agency, the International Maritime Organization.
Each successive generation brings new challenges. In recent years, the passenger shipping sector has seen phenomenal growth on all fronts – numbers of passengers, numbers of ships, new destinations and, perhaps most significant of all, in ship sizes. And despite advances in technology, accidents continue to occur, as demonstrated when the Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy earlier this year.
Nevertheless, thanks largely to the IMO regulatory regime, shipping today is safer and more environmentally friendly than it has ever been. New regulations for passenger ships were adopted by the IMO in 2006 and entered into force in 2010. They ensure that all new passenger vessels are constructed to the highest possible standards. 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. Its work is as important now as ever.