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Live From Sea Asia 2015
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IMO seeks to address issue of safety on domestic passenger ships

The IMO will seek to enhance the safety of lives at sea on domestic passenger vessels, despite the issue falling outside the scope of the UN organisation, said secretary-general Koji Sekimizu.

At the Sea Asia 2015 conference held in Singapore on Wednesday, Sekimizu noted the serious accidents involving lost of lives on passenger vessels in the waters of South Korea and the Mediterranean have happened in recent years.

“Historically issues involving domestic passenger ferries are outside the scope of the IMO. IMO Conventions apply to international passenger ships, so we left the matter of domestic shipping to the decision of each country,” Sekimizu shared his thoughts with delegates at the industry conference.

“But the time has come to improve safety on domestic passenger ships, so we are now taking action,” he said. Sekimizu that he will be travelling to Manila in the Philippines this week to formalise issues in order to deal with raising the safety of domestic passenger ships, discuss with the relevant stakeholders on what went wrong in past incidences, and to establish safety guidelines.

“I have made it very clear to the Italian and Greek authorities that they should provide casualty investigation reports as soon as possible. The key is to improve safety of lives at sea,” Sekimizu said.

In 2012, the sinking of Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia off Italian waters in the Mediterranean Sea caused the deaths of 32 people. In late 2014, the Greek-operated ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire, but the casualty numbers remained unclear. Last year, the Korean ferry Sewol sank and led to the deaths of close to 300 people, mostly students.

The deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean on very small and unsafe boats are also a pressing issue that needs to be addressed, Sekimizu pointed out. “Last year, more than 170,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean, and up to 3,000 have lost their lives. What has the international community done? This is a very serious issue and I have raise the matter to the top of the UN,” he said.

He further warned that this year there could be some 450,000 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean with potentially 10,000 deaths if nothing is being done. He also urged the respective governments, particularly those of the Mediterranean, to appropriately and swiftly handle the matter.

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