Seafarers, climate change in the spotlight at IMO 32nd Assembly

IMO Secretary-General encourages increased seafarer support and drive towards decarbonization

 For the first time in IMO’s history, the Assembly is being held in remote session. 

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Kitack Lim, has opened the Organization’s 32nd Assembly session (6-15 December 2021), highlighting the continuing need to support seafarers with access to crew change and vaccinations, and stressing the importance of the role IMO plays in decarbonizing shipping.

“Shipping has demonstrated its relevance and importance to keep trade and transport of essential goods and medicine flowing across continents even during the pandemic. However, all this has come at a cost to the world’s seafarers,” Mr. Lim said, addressing delegates from IMO Member States, international governmental and non-governmental organizations. For the first time in IMO’s history, the Assembly is being held in remote session. A limited number of delegates are physically present in IMO’s London Headquarters.

Secretary-General Lim acknowledged the collaborative efforts to support seafarers over the past two years as the COVID-19 pandemic has held sway, between IMO, other United Nations Agencies, Member States, industry and the work of the IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT). He warned, “The crew change crisis is not yet over. We must continue to take the necessary action for more countries to recognize seafarers as key workers and to facilitate vaccinations for them.”

The Assembly will consider for adoption an Assembly resolution urging continued comprehensive action to address seafarers’ challenges during the pandemic.

Fight against climate change

Mr. Lim emphasized IMO’s efforts to battle climate change. The Secretary-General outlined the regulatory work already undertaken by IMO, including mandatory carbon intensity reduction measures adopted in June 2021, as well as various global projects currently underway to support developing States and accelerate decarbonization across the globe. “Our collective actions must show our dedication to contribute towards the global issue of climate change,” he said. “We can only achieve these goals by working together on a global scale and IMO provides the forum for shipping to do its part. The world is watching us.”

“The way forward is complex, but by working together I have every confidence that we will ensure that shipping will decarbonize and make a key contribution in the fight against climate change and for cleaner oceans. Collaborative and considerate actions are key to making sure no one is left behind,” Mr. Lim continued. “Shipping will continue to drive world trade. The work of IMO is more relevant than ever. As a part of the United Nations family, we will continue to seek outcomes in support of sustainable development and a brighter future for our planet.”

Remote meetings of IMO organs

The Secretary-General highlighted the valuable work done by the various IMO Committees despite the ongoing pandemic, drawing attention to the fact that IMO was one of the first UN agencies to adopt a process for decision-making in remote meetings. Since September 2020, sessions of the IMO Council and all IMO Committees and Sub-Committees have now been held remotely.

Key speakers

The Right Honorable Robert Courts, Minister for the Department for Transport of the United Kingdom Government, welcomed delegates to the Assembly, as the representative of the Host State.

The outgoing President of the Assembly, H. E. Ms. Nomatemba Tambo, High Commissioner of South Africa to the United Kingdom, and the incoming President, H.E. Mr. Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to IMO addressed the Assembly.

Ms Tambo highlighted the challenge faced by seafarers during the pandemic and commended the encouragement of measures which she said “provides a fair balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic whilst ensuring the smooth flow of food and medical supplies needed by many, whose livelihoods depends on shipping”. She also emphasized the importance of fishing vessel safety and the work done by IMO in this area. “The entry into force of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement is very important for safety standards on the design, construction and equipment of fishing vessels and for combatting illegal and unregulated fishing. I therefore believe that Torremolinos Declaration is an important undertaking, encouraging Member States to consider signing the Agreement.”

Assembly attendees heard statements from 66 high-level representatives via video recordings, to allow all to participate equally despite ongoing travel restrictions. 

Election of Officers

The Assembly elected the following officers:

Assembly President

H.E. Mr. Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to IMO.

Upon his election, the incoming president said, “My election is in a year in which we recognize the seafarers at the heart of shipping. It is an acknowledgement and endorsement of the commitment that my country, Philippines, has made to the objectives and work of the International Maritime Organization. I thank you wholeheartedly for giving me this role. I will do my utmost to serve you well.”


1st Vice-President: H.E. Ms. Linda Scott, High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of Namibia to IMO.

2nd vice-President: H.E. Mr. Raffaele Trombetta, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Italy to IMO.

Additional information and photos

The session is being held remotely. A limited number of delegates are following the remote meeting at IMO Headquarters.

Photos can be viewed here:

IMO Assembly

The 32nd Assembly of IMO is meeting in London at IMO Headquarters from 6-15 December 2021. All 175 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend the Assembly, which is IMO’s highest governing body. The intergovernmental organizations with which agreements of co-operation have been concluded and international non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO are also invited to attend.

The Assembly normally meets once every two years in regular session. It is responsible for approving the work programme and the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. It also elects the Organization’s 40-Member Council.