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IMO eyes arrival of ‘digital disruption’ in shipping

Examination of emerging technologies, autonomous vessels and cyber security must form an integral part of IMO’s strategic approach to the next five years, said secretary-general Kitack Lim in his opening address at the IMO’s 30th Assembly session as he outlined the key elements of the new ‘Strategic Plan for the Organization’ for the 2018 to 2023 period.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}Mr Lim described his ambition to transform IMO into a “knowledge based Organization” that will embrace data and analysis in its work and decision-making processes. He called for more detailed and deeper analysis of statistics and data to better understand the underlying trends and causal factors behind shipping casualties, and for additions and amendments to the regulatory framework to be based, wherever possible, on relevant statistics, studies and analysis.

“The seven strategic directions (in the new plan) 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,” he said.

The rapidly increasing pace of change in the modern world outside shipping would also have a likely impact on IMO’s own way of working, Mr Lim added, since technology will continue to move far quicker than the regulatory process in the future.

“Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon; and when it does, IMO must be ready,” he 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.”

“We are in the era of digitalisation 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.”{/mprestriction}

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