Leading the way to a sustainable future

Rebecca Gibson asks what new goals Kitack Lim hopes to achieve during his next four years at the helm of International Maritime Organization

Leading the way to a sustainable future
“The IMO has done an enormous amount of work in the past four years,” said Kitack Lim

What achievements are you most proud of during your first four-year term as secretary general of International Maritime Organization (IMO)?

The IMO has done an enormous amount of work in the past four years, two of our biggest achievements include adopting our initial strategy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships and mandating a 0.5% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil from 1 January 2020. We’ve also introduced the Ballast Water Management Convention, the Polar Code and a new requirement for ships and ports to exchange data electronically. Plus, we’ve implemented and executed several key global projects on marine plastic other key issues. These measures – and many others – have made passenger shipping a safer, more efficient and more integrated part of the global supply chain.

As part of this, we’ve increased our focus on helping to drive the implementation of these regulations through numerous IMO-organised workshops, seminars and other capacity-building activities. IMO has also embarked on a review and reform process at both a secretariat and an organisational level, the latter through the IMO Council. The IMO has already become more proactive and effective, and I’m confident this trend will continue over my next four-year term, leaving the organisation well placed to face future challenges.

When you first took the helm of IMO, you said that you wanted to continue forging a future where shipping meets the needs of the world in a safe, secure and sustainable way. Can you share examples that show you have achieved this?

I’ve been particularly focused on enhancing data management, strengthening collaboration and communication outreach, and building capacity to improve how we implement our initiatives. Data will be critical to help us improve how we operate, so I’ll improve how we analyse information and how we use it to inform and support the development of policies and the regulatory process.

Another ongoing priority has been to strengthen dialogue between member states and the wider maritime industry, as well as within IMO’s secretariat. This approach has already worked well with the multiple meetings, workshops and collaborative activities we held to ensure the successful implementation of the reduced sulphur limit in ships’ fuel oil and our initial greenhouse gas strategy.

Implementation is essential to achieve IMO’s goals, particularly for developing countries. A good example of this is the ‘A Voyage Together’ resource mobilisation strategy we’re currently implementing to increase the financial sustainability of IMO’s technical cooperation and capacity-building capabilities. I’m committed to redoubling efforts to provide assistance towards the capacity development of member states, in particular the least developed countries and small islands developing states.

Which of the initiatives that you have introduced over the past four years do you think have had the most impact on creating a safer, cleaner and more sustainable shipping industry?

My aim is to significantly strengthen collaboration between all maritime stakeholders and my efforts to enhance IMO’s worldwide outreach activities has helped it to successfully meet its main policy goals. This has been demonstrated by the many special events, meetings, workshops and other collaborative activities that have helped stakeholders to discuss the future of the maritime industry and make progress with major policy issues and implementing regulations. We’ve made progress on greenhouse gas emissions, digitalisation and automation, piracy and security, ship-to-port interfaces and more.

What will be the biggest challenges for the passenger shipping sector over the next 12 months?

Passenger shipping faces the challenges common to the whole maritime sector: climate change, environment protection, digitalisation and the need to make international trade more efficient. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and everyone needs to do their bit. This year, passenger ship operators can help to reduce their impact by ensuring they follow IMO regulations prohibiting the discharge of plastic into the ocean and implementing guidelines to reducing single-use plastic. Cruise lines operating in polar regions can also do their bit by complying with the IMO’s Polar Code.

How will the IMO help the passenger shipping sector overcome these important issues?

The IMO will play a central role. Our regulatory framework creates a level playing field for the industry and acts as a catalyst for cross-sector R&D and technology innovation efforts, while our technical cooperation activities and collaborative projects help to develop capacity for global standards to be implemented. In addition, IMO provides the forum for different stakeholders to come together and jointly develop, adopt and implement global shipping standards. For example, we’ll help the passenger shipping sector to collaborate on decarbonisation efforts, develop and test low or zero-carbon fuels, and find ways to supply cleaner shore power for ships in port.

What are your main goals for the IMO over the next four years? How do you plan to achieve them?

We have five main objectives, which will be achieved by IMO continuing to provide a collaborative forum for all stakeholders to discuss policy issues, maintaining our long-running technical cooperation programmes, and bringing capacity building and training to developing countries. Our main goals include:

1. Develop more detailed plans to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions targets we set out in our initial strategy, which represent a reduction of emissions of over 80% for ships currently in service.

2. Ensuring that shipowners worldwide continue to smoothly and universally implement the 0.5% sulphur limit, so that everyone reaps the full benefits.

3. Digitalising the shipping sector by integrating new and advancing technologies into the regulatory framework. We aim to balance the benefits derived from these technologies with related safety and security concerns, their effect on the environment and international trade facilitation, the potential costs, and their impact on both shore-based and shipboard personnel.

4. Making shipping a more integrated and more efficient part of the global supply chain.

5. Improving the wellbeing of over 1.6 million seafarers working onboard seagoing ships every day around the world.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
19 June 2020

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