Shipping affects us all. No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around you, you are almost certain to see something that either has been or will be transported by sea, whether in the form of raw materials, components or the finished article. Yet few people have any idea just how much they rely on shipping. For the vast majority, shipping is out of sight and out of mind. But this does a huge disservice to the industry that, quietly and efficiently, day and night, never pausing and never stopping, keeps the world turning and keeps the people of the world fed, clothed, housed and entertained. This is a story that needs to be told. And this is why the theme that has been chosen for World Maritime Day 2016 is "Shipping: indispensable to the world". The theme exposes the critical link between shipping and global society and raises awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping.
International trade has evolved such that almost no nation can be fully self-sufficient. Every country relies, to some degree, on selling what it produces and acquiring what it lacks: none can be dependent only on its domestic resources. Shipping is the only truly cost-effective and sustainable means by which this can be fulfilled. Today, people all over the world rely on ships to transport the commodities, fuel, foodstuffs, goods and products on which we all depend.
Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and the global economy. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), around 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide. These shares are even higher in the case of most developing countries.
At the beginning of 2015, the world's commercial fleet consisted of nearly 90,000 vessels, with a total carrying capacity of some 1.75 billion dwt. This fleet is registered in more than 150 nations and is manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality. It is this fleet that enables the import and export of goods, on the scale necessary to sustain the modern world, to take place.
Since shipping is clearly an international activity crossing national and ocean boundaries, it is not surprising that the international community has developed a series of regulations governing the shipping industry, and that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), headquartered in London, has the lead responsibility for developing these uniform regulations.
Through its work in London and throughout the world, IMO underpins development of the maritime sector and the "blue economy" by fostering maritime safety and security, protection of the environment and the facilitation of maritime trade. Creating the conditions in which international shipping can operate safely, securely and with a minimal impact on the global environment will remain central pillars of IMO's mission. Standards of living in the industrialized and developed world, and the jobs and livelihoods of billions in the developing world, all depend on ships and shipping. Yet the vast majority of people remain blissfully unaware of how much they rely on it and how much it shapes their lives.
This year, the World Maritime Day theme provides an opportunity to put that right. It gives an opportunity for the shipping community to tell its story: the story of an industry that, in terms of efficiency, safety, environmental impact and its contribution to global trade is unmatched by any other transport sector; the story of shipping – which is, truly, indispensable to the world.
For information about NAMEPA's 2016 North American World Maritime Day Observance, CLICK HERE.