World Maritime Day 2020

“Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet” is the World Maritime theme for 2020. This will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and showcase the work that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets.

World Maritime Day 2020 – IMO Secretary-General’s message

​Full text of the message by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO, can be downloaded here (English text). 

Watch the video:

​The theme for this year is “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet,” which provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to showcase the work that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets. The theme will provide opportunities for leaders from various sectors, including shipping, to both reflect on the work done and the urgent steps they further plan towards a sustainable future.


The shipping industry, with the support of the IMO regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards this sustainable future. IMO has adopted and will continue to develop measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, implement the Ballast Water Management Convention, protect the polar regions, reduce marine litter, improve the efficiency of shipping through the electronic exchange of information, meet the challenges of the digitalization of shipping and enhance the participation of women in the maritime community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the professionalism and sacrifice of the two million seafarers who serve on the world’s merchant fleet. Shipping has continued to transport more than 80% of world trade, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery – but hundreds of thousands of seafarers face a humanitarian crisis as they have been stranded at sea, unable to get off the ships they operate with contracts extended by many months. This needs to be addressed urgently, through Governments designating seafarers as essential workers and ensuring safe crew changes can take place.

World Maritime Day  – 24 September 2020
This year’s World Maritime Day was celebrated on 24 September 2020 in the form of an online event. A global audience heard how innovation, the maritime workforce and the role of industry and governments can work to realise shipping’s sustainable future.

The webinar brought together speakers from government, international organizations and innovative enterprise. They raised issues and highlighted solutions facing shipping, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. One overarching theme was that the pandemic could and should be the catalyst for positive change, with international and cross-sector cooperation being the key.

In his opening remarks, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim set the tone by praising the unprecedented level of cooperation between all those involved in the maritime sector in response to the pandemic. He said, “never has the spirit of cooperation been more important than now. I can assure you that IMO, as the global regulator of international shipping, is ready to establish new partnerships for cooperation and sustainable economic recovery, and to help drive the SDGs, for the benefit of all humankind.”

H.E. Mr. Robert Courts, Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security, Department for Transport, United Kingdom, emphasised the need to protect our marine environment, saying that “today’s summit is testimony to our international efforts. It is right that as we build our way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we double down on protecting our environment to deliver a greener future”.

IMarEST’s Mr. Alastair Fischbacher said that the pandemic had not changed our shared sustainable shipping target, but raised the issue that “in a competitive world, it is easier to follow than to lead – easier to let others take risks”. The solution, he said, was coordinated, international cooperation.

The event heard from the WHO’s Dr. Jaouad Mahjour, who said that “strong action calls for more collaboration between the health sector and the maritime sector because health is a shared responsibility”.

The message of shared responsibility was also raised in response to a question on how to combine ambitious goals on international ship emissions and sustainable growth of developing countries.

On the topic of maritime careers, Ms. Birgit Liodden (Ocean Opportunity Lab) said the old way of looking at maritime careers was outdated, and that a “lifespan’ approach that mixes onboard and onshore work was needed. “We need to move to achieve work-family fusion” to attract the best and broadest range of talents, because new generations have “different values and expectations about how they are spending the hours in their lives”, she said.

The issue of ocean plastic was also discussed, with H.E. Prof. Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of the Sea, Portugal, emphasising that “to tackle the problem of illegal littering we need new approaches and mechanisms which goes beyond regulation. We need to adopt measures within a circular economy and focus on systematic approach involving all stakeholders”.

Watch the full webinar here