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Shipping: indispensable to the world

The sun rises over ships anchored off of Mogadishu, Somalia, waiting to offload their cargo in 2012. The local port experienced an unprecedented flurry of activity and traffic after nearly twenty years affected by civil war. Photo: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

29 September 2016 - Every evening, millions of people all over the world settle into their armchairs to watch some TV after a hard day at work. Many have a snack or something to drink, and it occurs to almost none of them that they have anything to thank shipping for.

However, shipping affects us all. No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around, 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. A single ship can carry enough grain to feed nearly four million people for a month; another, enough oil to heat an entire city for a year, and others can carry the same amount of finished goods as nearly 20,000 heavy trucks on the road

Yet few people realise 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 which, 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.

Due to this central role, the chosen theme for the World Maritime Day 2016 is "Shipping: indispensable to the world". World Maritime Day is observed annually by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO was established in 1948 as a specialized agency of the United Nations, and its main tasks include, among others, maintaining the international regulatory framework for shipping, promoting safety and environmental concerns.

Despite its possibly polluting image, shipping can be considered as a driver of "green growth", given its impressive environmental performance. Under IMO's regulatory regime, both accidental and operational pollution from ships have steadily diminished over many decades and the industry is bound by strict controls on discharges and emissions. And the work continues: even though it is already by far the most carbon-efficient form of transport when cargo volumes are taken into consideration, further measures are now in place that will make future ships even more energy-efficient.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) met with Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), during his visit to IMO headquarters in London in February 2016. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“The jobs and livelihoods of billions of people in the developing world, and standards of living in the industrialized and developed world, depend on ships and shipping. The shipping industry has played an important part in the dramatic improvements in global living standards that have taken millions of people out of acute poverty in recent years. It will be just as critical for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the plan agreed by all global leaders last year for people, peace, planet prosperity and partnership”, reminded the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message ahead of the international day.


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