Secretary Buttigieg on The International Maritime Organization Assembly

Secretary Buttigieg DTC Script
International Maritime Organization Assembly
Distributed November 27, 2023

  • Hello, I’m U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
  • I’d first like to recognize the leadership and record of Secretary-General Lim. And I offer our best wishes to Secretary-General Elect Dominguez, who already has a strong history at the International Maritime Organization.
  • As you all gather for the Assembly of the IMO, I want to echo the powerful U.S. statement delivered by Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Maritime shipping affects every person on this globe, and the IMO has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable institution to ensuring such shipping is safe and sustainable.
  • The three priorities I’d like to raise today are consistent with my message to the last IMO assembly – though two years later, we are in a different moment. On climate, supply chains, and workforce safety, we have made progress. That should put wind in our sails, and I want to thank the delegates and stakeholders who are responsible for this progress. But on all three issues, we still have a long way to reach land, and today’s challenges call for renewed focus.
  • On climate: we all know the challenge before us, which is that maritime greenhouse gas emissions play such a significant role in climate change.
    • The United States strongly supports the progress made with the 2023 IMO Greenhouse Gas Strategy, including the inclusion of a well-to-wake and lifecycle approach to emissions.
    • And we are enthusiastic about IMO’s efforts on vessel quieting and cleaner ship designs – which are important not just for ocean life, but for human life.
    • For our part, we also have a range of efforts ongoing under the U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, an interagency strategy to cut all greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. transportation sector by 2050. And within that, we are developing a maritime decarbonization action plan that we aim to release early next year.
  • Our success on climate will not only protect people around the world, it will protect supply chains around the world.
    • Together, we have addressed many of the specific disruptions created by the COVID pandemic – but those hard years exposed supply chain weaknesses that will only be exacerbated by climate change, if we don’t act soon. Globally, we see many ports at risk from sea level rise, while other critical shipping waterways, from the Mississippi River to the Panama Canal, are drying out due to heat and drought.
    • President Biden is taking unprecedented action to make America’s supply chains more resilient, and we will continue to support the IMO to make global supply chains more diverse, secure, and sustainable.
  • And third, I want to talk about the most important part of maritime shipping: the people, the workforce.
    • Here again, I want to commend IMO and states for focusing on the safety of seafarers, including getting them designated as essential workers so they could travel between ships and countries of residence, and establishing the Seafarer Crisis Action Team to help in critical situations.
    • But I want to emphasize that even as we have seen some progress, we must do far more to ensure that sexual assault and harassment find no safe harbor in the maritime industry. There are no waters on this earth where such behavior should go undeterred, undetected, and unpunished. And my team stands ready to share new approaches we are taking and to learn from what is working well elsewhere.
  • Finally, I would like to congratulate Caleb Halle (add phonetic spelling) of the U.S. Coast Guard, who is being honored with the 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. On January 14th, 35 nautical miles off the east coast of the United States, a disabled tugboat was adrift in violent seas. With waters too rough for a cutter, the Coast Guard turned to Caleb’s helicopter rescue team. Caleb lowered onto the tugboat, helped three crew members be hoisted to safety, and then stayed on the tug with the four remaining crew members until a second helicopter with more fuel could arrive. Even after his survival suit was damaged, Caleb and his team helped rescue every survivor before he himself was hoisted up. That kind of bravery is so unique, and yet at the same time reminds us of what we are all capable of when we find the best in ourselves. Our assembly rooms are not nearly as dangerous as the rolling seas, but Caleb’s story calls us to find the courage to do what is right.
  • So, I wish everyone a productive assembly, thank you for all that you will achieve over the coming days, and I look forward to our work together.