27 September 2012 marks the 35th celebration of World Maritime Day. This year’s theme is: "IMO: One hundred years after the Titanic”, a theme chosen by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reflect on the safety of passenger shipping today, and into the future, on the centenary anniversary of the Titanic disaster.
In his World Maritime Day message, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu recalled that the Titanic tragedy, on 14 April 1912, which transformed in a few short hours the world’s most celebrated ship into a name forever associated with disaster, prompted the major shipping nations of the world, at that time, to take decisive action to address maritime safety. This led to the adoption, two years later, of the first-ever International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea and, ultimately, to the establishment of IMO itself.
“Today, much updated and revised, SOLAS is still the most important international treaty addressing maritime safety,” Mr. Sekimizu said.
“This year, 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,” he said.
Mr Sekimizu used his message to announce that IMO is planning to hold a two-day symposium at IMO Headquarters, in London, in conjunction with IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee next June, on the "Future of Ship Safety”.
The idea is to go beyond the current safety issues under the Committee and rigorously consider the future of maritime safety. The objective is for the discussions to contribute to the future advancement of the Organization’s maritime safety policy.
Mr. Sekimizu referred to the comprehensive body of international conventions, supported by literally hundreds of guidelines and recommendations that, between them, govern just about every facet of the shipping industry – from the drawing board to the scrapyard, developed by IMO, which have led to shipping today to be safer, cleaner, more efficient and more secure than at any time in the past.
“But each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and, regrettably, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement. 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,” he said.
Mr. Sekimizu pointed out the unique nature of the passenger and cruise ship industry’s “cargo”.
“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 its main product – not comfort, entertainment or leisure. Without safety, the industry will not survive, let alone sustain its growth; and real safety does not result simply as a consequence of regulation-compliance,” Mr. Sekimizu said.
“Some 20 years ago, the International Safety Management Code, adopted by IMO, represented a step-change in the establishment of a safety culture in shipping. The time has now come to generate another step-change. This will not be achieved through legislative measures alone. We must generate a new impetus in shipping to go beyond compliance with regulations and explore industry-wide mechanisms to ensure the safety culture is embedded throughout the entire industry,” Mr. Sekimizu said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a message for World Maritime Day, reflecting on the Titanic tragedy and noting that each successive generation brings new challenges.
“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,” Mr. Ban said.