Kitack Lim, with less than two months to go before he steps down from his role as secretary general of the International Maritime Organization, has called for all shipping stakeholders to collectively strive for the highest standards, ensuring that every seafarer is treated with the utmost respect and dignity.

Lim, speaking at the Tristar Maritime-organised Safety at Sea 2023 conference held on Monday, hailed seafarers as “heroes” who play a vital role in shipping, which is the lifeblood of global trade.

Addressing his comments directly to seafarers, he said: “We recognise that without your practical contribution, we could not work toward decarbonisation, embrace new technologies, engage in digitalisation and automation, or implement other measures to enhance efficiency, safety and security in maritime operations — all crucial aspect of ensuring a sustainable being an efficient maritime sector.”

While acknowledging hardships at sea, Lim said the well-being and safety of seafarers are at the forefront of the IMO’s priorities.

“To all stakeholders within the maritime community, I invite you to prioritise the safety, training and welfare of your crew members. They are the heroes of our industry, and their well-being should always be your highest priority,” he said.

Lim, a former seafarer who has led the IMO since January 2016, also took the opportunity to share some thoughts on the course he hopes the shipping industry will take in the future.

“I envision a future where the shipping industry remains the cornerstone of global trade while leading the charge in sustainability and innovation. Together, let us construct a maritime sector that is stronger, safer, more resilient, and capable of thriving in the face of a change,” he said.

Lim will hand over the IMO reins to Panama’s Arsenio Dominguez at the start of 2024. The 52-year-old trained naval architect is a well-regarded figure within the organisation and played a pivotal role in the adoption of the regulator’s decarbonisation strategy agreed in June.