It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of global trade between peoples and communities all over the world is conducted through International shipping. Experts argue, albeit, rightly, that shipping is the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation for most goods as it provides a dependable, low-cost means of moving goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples.
Because of these advantages, the world has come to rely on it as a safe, secure and efficient means of transportation which is an essential component of any programme for future sustainable green economic growth.
Invariably, the promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development is one of the major priorities of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in the coming years. Therefore, the development and implementation of global standards will require energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of the maritime infrastructure. These requirements will also underpin IMO’s commitment to provide the institutional framework necessary for a green and sustainable global maritime transportation system.
It is from this perspective that the theme for this year’s event: Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet, becomes immensely apt as it provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to showcase the work that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its member states are undertaking to achieve the targets. Hopefully, it will provide opportunities for leaders from various sectors, including shipping, to both reflect on the work done and the urgent steps they further plan towards a sustainable future.
As the world grapples with the way and means of ensuring an effective and efficient maritime service, COVID-19 pandemic seem to have further highlighted the professionalism and, in particular, the sacrifice of the more than two million seafarers who serve on the world’s merchant fleet. These professionals make sure that, in spite of the personal risks involved, vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery are delivered to their destinations. In doing this, it has also become obvious that the seafarers themselves face a humanitarian crisis as most of them have been stranded at sea, unable to get off the ships they operate with contracts extended by many months. Already, there are urgent calls demanding that governments designate seafarers as essential workers essentially to ensure that safe crew changes can take place.
In the meantime, it is important to observe that the shipping industry, with the support of the IMO regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards a sustainable future where maritime activities will continue to play the key role they have been playing in trade and commerce. To this extent, it is pertinent to point out that the IMO has adopted and will continue to develop measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, implement the Ballast Water Management Convention, protect the polar regions, reduce marine litter, improve the efficiency of shipping through the electronic exchange of information, meet the challenges of the digitalization of shipping and enhance the participation of women in the maritime community.
Without doubt, IMO, as a specialized agency of the United Nations, and as the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping, is alive to its role which includes to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented. What this entails, in our opinion, is that this agency of the United Nations, assigned with this all important role of creating a level playing-field where all operators, including those from less developed economies, will do business without being stifled by bigger and more exposed competitors, provides that guarantee. It is its responsibility to ensure that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance.
It is gratifying to note that the United Nations is working to ensure the peaceful, cooperative, legally defined uses of the seas and oceans for the individual and common benefit of humankind through the ratification of treaties and conventions regarding law of the sea. We applaud the world body’s ground breaking work in adopting the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention which stands as a defining moment in the extension of international law to the vast, shared water resources of the planet. The convention, experts aver, has resolved several important issues related to ocean usage and sovereignty.
It is from this standpoint that we commend the Nigerian Shippers Council and other agencies of government involved in maritime safety and administration for their determination to bring shipping in the country in line with international best practices.