2020 World Maritime Theme Focuses on Sustainability

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Published Jul 23, 2019 9:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

"Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet" has been selected as the World Maritime theme for 2020. 

The IMO Council, meeting for its 122nd session at IMO Headquarters in London, endorsed the theme, following a proposal by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. The theme will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and showcase the work that the IMO and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets.

“I believe that this theme will provide flexibility to the Secretariat and the Member States in highlighting the myriad topics and challenges in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  At the same time, it will provide excellent opportunities to highlight the already significant contributions of shipping and the IMO to building that sustainable future,” Lim said. “The year 2020 will mark the beginning of a decade of action and delivery. It will be a decisive decade not only for the shipping industry, but for life on the planet.”

He noted that September 2019 would see a gathering of Heads of State at the United Nations in New York to take stock of how far the world has come in realizing the sustainable development commitments. The SDG Summit, the Climate Action Summit and other meetings, such as the Our Ocean and the U.N. Ocean Conferences, are planned for 2020.

"We are strategically equipped, in line with the approach laid out in the IMO Secretariat's SDGs Strategy, to showcase our contribution to the SDGs and to act upon untapped opportunities of technologies, finance and new partnerships for the future benefit of the shipping industry and humankind," Lim said.

Aspects of the IMO's work can be linked to all individual SDGs.

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

As the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient way to carry goods, shipping forms the backbone of world trade. It provides a dependable, low-cost means of transport, facilitating commerce and helping create prosperity. By providing improved access to basic materials, goods and products, shipping is expected to help lift millions of people out of poverty.

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Fish is a major source of nutrition globally, and the IMO is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In a wider context, international shipping plays an essential role in the import and export of food all around the world, ensuring that growers, producers and consumers all have access to one another. 

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

More than a billion people live in coastal areas, and this number is set to increase sharply in the coming years. The IMO's conventions and other instruments not only contribute to the reduction of shipping-related pollution in the wider oceans, but also in ports and coastal regions. For example, atmospheric emissions from ships are strictly regulated globally; and, in addition, the IMO has designated a number of Emission Control Areas in which more stringent rules apply. Furthermore, the January 1, 2020 sulfur cap is expected to have a major beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities, beyond the existing Emission Control Areas.

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

In the maritime world, education and training are vital. But their importance extends far beyond shipping itself. The safety and security of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment and the efficient movement of global trade depend on the professionalism and competence of seafarers. The IMO's International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) sets global standards of competence for seafarers and effective mechanisms for enforcing its provisions.

IMO also contributes to inclusive and high-quality education by providing training activities, in particular through its technical cooperation programs and its global maritime training institutions – the World Maritime University (WMU) and the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI). 

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Through its gender equality and capacity-building program, the IMO encourages its Member States to enable women to train alongside men in their maritime institutes. The IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through gender specific fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries; and creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes.

6. Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

There is enough fresh water on the planet for everyone to have access to clean water. But due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Effective management of waste disposal and dumping is vital if this goal is to be achieved; the London Convention and its Protocol regulate dumping and waste disposal at sea, a key component of the overall waste-management cycle.

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

The IMO contributes to international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, in particular energy-efficiency and advanced, cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promotes investment in energy infrastructure and clean-energy technology.

One important example is the Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership (GloMEEP), a joint project of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and IMO. This was formally launched in September 2015 and is now well underway. Focusing on developing countries, where shipping is increasingly concentrated, GloMEEP is creating global, regional and national partnerships to build capacity to address maritime energy efficiency and for countries to bring this issue into the mainstream within their own development policies.

GloMEEP recently launched the Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping, in which a group of leading private companies from different sectors of the industry are coming together to contribute to tackling the challenges of decarbonizing the shipping sector. 

Another key initiative is the GMN project, formally entitled "Capacity Building for Climate Mitigation in the Maritime Shipping Industry." This will enable developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, in five target regions to effectively implement energy-efficiency measures through technical assistance, capacity building and promoting technical cooperation.

8. Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Over one million seafarers operate the global fleet. A concern for seafarer welfare, both as employees and as individuals, can be seen in the IMO's continuing work on issues such as fatigue, fair treatment and liability and compensation for seafarers – and the annual Day of the Seafarer, celebrated each year on June 25 when th IMO campaigns globally to give wider recognition to seafarers.

The IMO also cooperates with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to address various issues concerning health services and social security protection for seafarers.

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

More efficient shipping, working in partnership with the port sector, will be a major driver towards global stability and sustainable development for the good of all people. The IMO contributes to SDG 9 by providing a legal and regulatory framework, capacity-building initiatives and a forum for Member States to exchange knowledge and experience.

The IMO regulations for shipping provide a tangible focus for innovators, and in response to IMO regulations, new technologies have already brought significant beneficial changes in the way ships are designed, constructed and operated, contributing to a more interconnected and efficient global supply chain.

By promoting trade by sea, nurturing national shipping lines and promoting seafaring as a career; by improving port infrastructure and efficiency; by developing and strengthening inter-modal links and hinterland connections; by managing and protecting fisheries, exploring offshore energy production and even by fostering tourism – maritime activity can both drive and support a growing national economy.

Improved economic development, supported by sustainable maritime development and underpinned by good maritime security, will support the Post-2015 Development Agenda and complement United Nations initiatives by addressing some of the factors that lead to instability, insecurity and uncontrolled mixed migration.

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

The IMO contributes to SDG 10 by providing extensive technical cooperation assistance to developing countries. The IMO has developed an Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) which is designed to assist governments which lack the technical knowledge and resources that are needed to operate a shipping industry safely and efficiently.

The IMO's ITCP has a mission statement to "help developing countries improve their ability to comply with international rules and standards relating to maritime safety and the prevention and control of maritime pollution, giving priority to technical assistance programs that focus on human resources development and institutional capacity-building."

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

For the connections between ships, port cities and the people who live in them to be safe, resilient and sustainable, they must also be secure. The IMO helps its Member States enhance maritime security, focusing on what the civil maritime industry, embracing both the shipping and port sectors, can do to protect itself and to protect global maritime trade. The emphasis is on preventive security through risk management, deterrence and threat transfer, raising global standards and setting norms for the safety, security and efficiency of ports and for port and coastal State authorities

Through its work on the facilitation of international maritime traffic, IMO also has an interest in mixed migration by sea, preventing drug smuggling, cybersecurity and prevention of stowaways.

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

The IMO contributes to SDG 12 through the reduction of waste generation, both operational waste from ships (through the MARPOL Convention) and dumping of wastes under the London Convention and Protocol (LC/LP). For garbage  and several other types of waste generated on board ships, MARPOL requires port States to provide adequate reception facilities for the safe and sound management of wastes.

The IMO also works to enhance technical capacities in wastewater management on board ships and in ports, and to promote recycling, cleaner production technologies and more sustainable consumption patterns.

The IMO's Hong Kong International Convention provides a framework for safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships themselves.

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

In its role as the global regulator of international shipping, IMO has developed a raft of measures designed to control emissions from the shipping sector. Thanks to the IMO, international shipping was the first global industry sector to be subject to mandatory, binding energy-efficiency regulations and standards designed to address GHG emissions throughout the industry.

Emissions from international shipping are regulated by Annex VI of IMO's MARPOL Convention. They cover air pollution, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, the London Protocol addresses carbon capture and sequestration in subsea geological formations and marine geoengineering, such as ocean fertilization, which have great potential for climate change mitigation.

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

To be sustainable, human activities have to be balanced with the oceans' capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term. A major part of the IMO's role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting that delicate balance.

Implementing and enforcing the main conventions and regulations adopted by IMO Member States actively addresses marine pollution, mainly from sea-based sources but also, at least indirectly, from land-based sources.

The IMO also supports the targets for managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, not least through the establishment of Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas. Protecting marine biodiversity has also been a key theme for the IMO for many years, most notably in its work to mitigate the threat of harmful invasive species being carried around the world by ships.

To help protect maritime wildlife, the IMO's work includes reduction of underwater noise from ships and adopting measures to avoid collisions between ships and marine mammals. The IMO has also banned the discharge of harmful litter from ships and is part of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, while the dumping of wastes at sea is regulated by the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, commonly called the London Convention, and its 1996 Protocol. 

15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

The main benefits of the IMO's efforts to conserve biodiversity through measures to curtail the global spread of invasive alien species by ships (related to the management of ballast water and biofouling) are primarily felt in the seas and oceans – but they also have a positive impact on certain key freshwater ecosystems such as the Great Lakes and the river systems of South America.

The Organization is also part of global efforts to halt illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking, as a member of the United for Wildlife Transport Task Force, which helps to stop illegal wildlife trafficking and thereby reduce demand. The IMO also works to strengthen security in ports and make it easier to spot and prevent illegal shipments.

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

The IMO assists developing countries in building effective institutions to ensure the safe, secure and environmentally protective flow of maritime commerce.

Students from IMO's educational establishments (the World Maritime University and the International Maritime Law Institute) often provide the core institutional capacity in their home countries to successfully implement the global regulatory regime for international shipping.

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The IMO currently has partnership arrangements with more than 60 IGOs and more than 70 NGOs, including major global environmental organizations and bodies. The IMO actively pursues specific partnerships with its Member States and others to execute individual projects or initiatives at both regional and global level. Most of these are aimed at developing regions, which typically benefit from training events, fellowships and technical advisory missions.

Major examples of recent partnership initiatives from IMO include the Globallast Partnerships Project (with the GEF and UNDP), the Global Industry Alliance, under the GloMEEP Project, and the GMN Project (with EU funding) with its five regional centers of excellence for maritime technology.

Together, these and many other partnerships involving the IMO make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the maritime community.