This is the second of a three-part series focused on Adm. Bob Papp’s travel to the Middle East and Europe to meet with partner organizations and visit Coast Guard personnel. It was written with contributions by Ademide Adedokun.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp led the United States delegation to the General Assembly of the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations specialized agency, this week at IMO headquarters in London. This cooperative effort is essential to international coordination on matters involving the world’s seas and vessel operations.
The Coast Guard is America’s lead agency at the IMO, and has represented the nation for all maritime policy development within the organization since it was established in 1958. Working alongside IMO’s 173 members, the Coast Guard advocates for U.S. maritime policy interests. The primary focus is on development of international standards for marine safety, security and environmental protection.
“Since 9/11 the IMO has adopted the International Ship and Port Facility Code,” said Papp. “This measure has assisted the United States and other member nations in the adoption of security standards at ship and port facilities to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attacks and security incidents. International cooperation is essential to ensuring U.S. maritime safety and security.”
At this year’s General Assembly, one of the most significant issues facing the international maritime industry is piracy and its effects on maritime commerce. IMO has issued guidelines that provide mariners with best practices to deter piracy and is addressing requirements for ships entering foreign nations when carrying weapons for security. The Coast Guard has been actively engaged on these issues as a flag state for several years. Piracy has gained significant international attention with a rise in incidents in the Indian Ocean over the past several years, including U.S. vessels.
Another important issue for IMO is setting standards, or a Polar Code, to ensure the safety of crews that sail on ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. As the Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly navigable due to diminishing ice, it will offer new routes for global maritime trade from Russia and Europe to Asia and the Americas, saving substantial transit time and fuel costs from traditional trade routes. IMO began work on the Polar Code in 2010 and aims to complete it in 2012. The new Code will include requirements for operations in cold environments and remote areas, communications in high latitudes, training for watch standers and ice navigators and mitigation of the environmental impacts of vessel operations.
“We strongly support development of the Polar Code,” Papp said. “As the Coast Guard examines the future of our missions in the Arctic, we see the need to establish safety rules for specific regions with particularly harsh climates and unique hazards. Wherever human activity thrives, government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the people and environment.”
The United States is a maritime nation. Separated from most markets by water, the nation relies on the sea for approximately 90 percent of the trade conducted with other nations – the economy’s lifeline. Consequently, every citizen is impacted by our participation in IMO’s success, especially its objective of “safe, secure and efficient shipping.” The Coast Guard, working in partnership via IMO with the world’s maritime leaders, assures that America is doing its part.