September 25 marked the celebration of World Maritime Day, an annual event which is used around the world to focus attention on the importance of the maritime industries to world trade.
Addressing the international maritime community in his World Maritime Day message, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil recognized the considerable efforts that have been made, and continue to be made, to ensure that ship operations today are as safe, secure and environmentally friendly as they can be and, more particularly, on the many people who work tirelessly and diligently to achieve these objectives.
Expounding on the theme "Committed people working for safe, secure and clean seas
," Mr. O'Neil drew attention to the broad range of skills, experience and expertise that are available to deal with the issues that come before IMO. He said, "The fact that IMO's 162 Member States, together with the more than 60 non-governmental and over 30 intergovernmental organizations which enjoy consultative status with IMO, can embrace many different viewpoints on any given subject is one of the Organization's greatest strengths. The combined capacity of the expertise which is brought to bear on any standard, guideline, code of practice or any other matter that it deals with results in a sensible and effective regulatory regime that applies to nearly 100 per cent of shipping engaged in international trade. No other Organization, either international or regional, can muster this competence and capability."
He went on to stress that, although the shipping industry looks to IMO as the leader in creating and raising standards in matters of safety, environmental protection and security, most of the people who carry out this detailed development work are seldom acknowledged and rarely make the headlines. "Without their commitment and dedication shipping would not have been able to make the huge gains, in terms of safety and pollution prevention, that have been achieved in recent years," said Mr. O'Neil, referring in particular to Government representatives who attend IMO meetings, delegates from non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental groups, and the IMO Secretariat staff who support the Member States with a host of services including interpretation, translation and the production of documents, as well as offering technical guidance whenever it may be required.
Mr. O'Neil also spoke of a wider network of people and organizations which make an invaluable contribution to safety and pollution prevention, including maritime lawyers and administrators, classification societies, port state control, training establishments, harbor authorities, pilots and so on. "But the final responsibility" he added, "must eventually lie with ship operators, and with the ship managers and ship staff who they employ. Indeed, it is the crew and the seafarers who can make the most significant contribution of all in the creation of a culture of safety within the industry as a whole."
Mr. O'Neil spoke of shipping as an industry able to boast of a history and a tradition that few others can match, with a legacy handed down by seafarers of pride in a job well done, attention to detail, professionalism, and of skills diligently learned and painstakingly applied.
The World Maritime Day celebrations were concluded at IMO's London Headquarters on Thursday evening with the customary reception for members of the London diplomatic and maritime communities.