IMO conventions: Effective implementation
Over the years, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has built up an enviable track record for developing and adopting new international conventions. There are more than 50 altogether. Collectively, they are aimed at either the prevention of accidents or environmental damage; at mitigating the negative effects of accidents when they do occur, or at ensuring that adequate compensation is available for the victims of such accidents.
While most of these are in force and have done so much to make shipping safer, more efficient and more environment-friendly, there are still several conventions for which a slow pace of ratification and a lack of implementation are serious causes for concern.
This year's theme
This is why I believe that the theme selected for World Maritime Day 2014 - namely 'IMO Conventions: Effective Implementation' - is so important. Through it, we have taken the opportunity to shine a spotlight on those IMO treaty instruments which have not yet entered into force, as well as those for which ratification by more states would lead to more effective implementation.
For an IMO convention to be properly effective, it needs early entry into force, widespread ratification, effective implementation, stringent oversight of compliance and vigorous enforcement. Even those conventions that command almost universal coverage of the global fleet, such as SOLAS and MARPOL, only have teeth if they are backed up by an effective implementation infrastructure at the national level.
Our efforts, with regard to conventions yet to enter into force, have been particularly focused on the Ballast Water Management Convention, the Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling, the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 to implement the Torremolinos Protocol on fishing vessel safety, the 2010 Protocol to the HNS Convention and the Nairobi Convention on wreck removal. Although there have been welcomed successes this year in terms of new ratifications - indeed the Nairobi Convention will enter into force next year - much remains to be done and we will continue our efforts to the end of the year and beyond.
The wider and more complete implementation of measures already in place has also been a major element of this year's theme. Energy-efficiency measures for ships, the availability of fuel oil to meet increasingly stringent sulphur-content requirements, and the verification of goal-based ship construction standards, have all featured strongly in the organisation's work this year and all contribute towards wider and more effective implementation of measures already agreed upon or in place.
Implementation of IMO measures is, ultimately, the responsibility of the member states and the industry - and the forthcoming mandatory audit scheme for member states will be an important tool for assessing member states' performance in meeting their obligations and responsibilities as flag, port and coastal states under the relevant IMO treaties.
But the organisation itself, including the secretariat, also has a role to play. The extensive technical cooperation programme, in which we identify particular needs among member states that may lack resources, expertise or both, and match them to offers of help and assistance from others, is a key element in this respect, helping states to meet their obligations fully and effectively.
A slow pace of ratification, a prolonged state of non-fulfilment of entry-into-force conditions, a lack of compliance oversight and of enforcement mechanisms all add up to ineffective implementation, which in turn prevents the benefits enshrined in IMO measures from being fully felt.
During the course of this year, our theme has enabled us to make genuine progress towards ratification, entry into force and implementation of all IMO conventions - but especially those which have yet to be widely accepted.
And this is what IMO is really all about. Debates, discussions and resolutions in committees and subcommittees are all very well: but it is how we apply what emerges from that process to the ships, ports and seafarers who operate daily at the 'sharp end' of shipping that really matters.