Shipping has an important role to play in the broader issues affecting global society, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos told delegates at the opening of the 24th session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at its London headquarters recently.
Referring to three concerns in particular - weatlh imbalance, security and the state of the planet from environment perspective - Mitropoulos said \"I strongly believe that their inherent problems are ones to which we, as the regulators of and, indeed, as members of the international maritime community, can play an active role in finding the solutions, or, at the very least, in making a valuable and beneficial contribution.\"
He pledged IMO\'s contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which have been agreed by the nations of the world through the United Nations. \"Here, in IMO, we are determined to play our part and, with the Council deciding last week that the World Maritime Day theme for next year should be \'Technical Cooperation: IMO\'s response to the 2005 World Summit,\' with special emphasis on the maritime needs of Africa, we will do all we can to make a difference,\" he added.
While the technical, detailed work of IMO is hugely important, Mitropoulos said, the Assembly provided an appropriate occasion to view IMO\'s work, and the contribution of shipping as a whole, in the context of the broader issues affecting the world.
\"The alleviation of poverty is not only a goal in itself but also a catalyst from which so much else in terms of health, education and equality of opportunity, can flow. Maritime activity has a key role to play in achieving this objective.
\"Indeed, developing countries now lead the world in some of shipping\'s most important ancillary businesses, including the registration of ships, the supply of sea-going manpower and ship recycling. They also play a significant part in shipowning and operating, shipbuilding, repairing and recycling and port services,\" he continued.
Seen in a wider context, shipping has an even more important role to play in underpinning the global economy on which all prosperity is based, Mitropoulos said, adding that \"sea transport remains by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials in quantity around the world, and as I have stressed at every opportunity this year, the vast majority of global trade is carried, safely and surely, in ship.\" Moreover, he said, shipping\'s safety record continues to improve and the total number of ship losses in 2004 was the lowest since 1989.
Mitropoulos highlighted the importance of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, set to be adopted during the Assembly, which will provide an excellent opportunity to improve standards for the greater good of all, providing a key tool in the battle against sub-standard shipping.
\"The Audit Scheme will allow Members of the Organization to place their own implementation record under the scrutiny of qualified, independent auditors, with a view to identifying where any gaps or weaknesses might be occuring so that, whatever remedial action might be appropriate, can be decided upon.
\"My vision of the Scheme is of one which, rather than causing embarrassment by exposing weaknesses, will instead bring us closer together - helping each other in pursuit of our common goals,\" Mitropoulos said, commending the Assembly to adopt the resolutions on the Framework and Procedures for the Audit Scheme and on the Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments, which is to serve as the audit standard.
Other important issues on the Assembly agenda, highlighted by Mitropoulos, include a proposed resolution requesting the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to develop, as a priority, a new instrument on ship recycling, with a view to providing legally-binding and globally-applicable ship recycling regulations for the international shipping industry and for recycling facilities.