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IMO Secretary-General outlines challenges facing the Organization

 The London based International Maritime Organization has warned of digital disruption taking place in the shipping industry and said the regulatory framework should be in place before its strikes the industry.

Addressing the Opening of the 30 the assembly of IMO at London last week, the Secretary General of the organization Kitack Lim said the rapidly increasing pace of change in every sphere raised a fundamental issue since technology is expected to move far quicker than the regulatory process.

Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon; and, when it does, IMO must be ready," Mr Lim said.

"For me, this means the regulatory framework for shipping must be based firmly around goals and functions rather than prescriptive solutions. This is the only way to ensure that measures adopted by IMO are not rendered obsolete by the time-lag between adoption and entry-into-force. I know we have already made good steps in that direction but we must go further and faster in the coming years."

The Organization as a whole needed to become more effective, more nimble and more adaptive, Mr Lim said, drawing attention to his determination to push forward a "knowledge-based organization" concept, embracing data in the Secretariat’s work and in the decision-making processes.

"We are in the era of digitalization and at the United Nations level we are already looking at frontier issues that include emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, and the benefits they could have in society as a whole, and to remain relevant," Mr Lim said.

For IMO, we need to have more detailed and deeper analysis of statistics and data so that we can really understand underlying trends and causal factors behind shipping casualties. We must make sure that additions and amendments to the regulatory framework are also based, wherever possible, on relevant statistics, studies and analysis. This would pave the way for better regulation, one that not only takes into account the work carried out to reduce administrative burdens, but to avoid disproportionate requirements, as well as addressing obsolete and unnecessary ones."

He concluded his address by referring to the forthcoming anniversary in 2018, marking 70 years since the Convention establishing IMO was adopted in March 1948. "The theme we have selected for next year—"Our heritage - better shipping for a better future"—looks both at the past and into the next 70 years that lie ahead. It provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how IMO has adapted over the years as a crucial player to the global supply chain," he said, as per a release.

The Secretary-General Lim has urged member states to seize the opportunity to set bold and ambitious goals when they adopt an initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping in 2018.

More than 1,500 delegates from IMO member states, international governmental and non-governmental organizations attended the 30th session of the IMO Assembly meet from November 27 to December 6.

Mr Lim outlined the key elements of the new "Strategic Plan for the Organization" for 2018 to 2023, which has been adopted by the Assembly.

"The seven strategic directions point us now towards more effective rule-making and implementation processes by integrating new and advancing technology to respond to our challenges, among others, to increase ship safety, including addressing new emerging technologies such as autonomous vessels, our contribution to combat climate change, engagement in ocean governance, mitigation of cyber crimes, and facilitation of international trade, whilst continuing to take due consideration on the human element factor," Mr Lim said.

He highlighted his ambition to transform IMO into a "knowledge-based organization", with appropriate analysis to support and improve the already effective rule-making process and enhance implementation.

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