By Kenneth Jukpor
Nigeria wants to emphasize its relevance in global shipping, whilst making further developments to crown its emergence as the hub of maritime in West Africa; hence the nation has vehemently begun the quest to return to Category ‘C’ at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council but this is panning out as an uphill task.
The country will be submitting its candidature to the Council’s Category ‘C’ for the 2018-2019 election period. Elections will be held during the 30th Regular Session of the IMO Assembly in London from November 27 to December 8, 2017.
Although the Category ‘C’ position at the IMO Council is the least, with Nigeria having potentials to even lobby for Category ‘B’, it can be argued that the nation really has few genuine reasons to successfully campaign for any slot in the Council at the moment as a result of the haphazard state of the nation’s shipping sector presently.
There are several benefits that a nation derives when it is present at the apex body for the regulation of maritime activities globally. It not only guarantees the country’s recognition in the league of maritime nations but also affords the nation the privilege to be part of the decision making at the Council. This also gives room for member states to explain the peculiarities of their states when certain policies that may not be favourable are raised.
Highlighting some of these benefits, a former Nigerian Alternate Permanent Representative (APR) to IMO and former Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Engr. Olu Akinsoji said, “It is a privilege to be among the 40 member states that take decisions in an organization with over 160 nations. When it comes to technical cooperation and other benefits that are accruable at the IMO, those that are members of the Council have the privilege of maximizing such opportunities for their nations.”
Akinsoji who has represented Nigeria in the Category ‘C’ of the IMO Council in the past, said that when issues arise with respect to the standards of a country, especially for new policies, “as a Council member you are in a better position to influence the direction that it goes. There is also a better proximity to discuss issues with the bigger maritime nations and the opportunity to discuss new policies in line with the existing standards and policies in your country. If you have a policy in your country that you think is well-groomed, you could also get the IMO to think in the direction of the policy”
However, explaining the politics at the IMO Council, Engr. Akinsoji stressed that a nation can only enjoy these benefits when it has won the support and confidence of other Council members.
“The benefits of a Council member are enormous and one can’t fully quantify these benefits except one is there. When it comes to the issue of technical cooperation such as bringing in consultants to assist in shipping or implementation of policies in line with the organization’s charter, you get assistance easily unlike other members that are not Council members because you are higher in hierarchy at the organization” Akinsoji said.
However,the present Nigerian Alternate Permanent Representative (APR) at the IMO, Alhaji Diko Balla recently said that the nation’s bid to return to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council has improved greatly with recent efforts of the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) led by the Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
Mr. Balla noted that the steps taken by the present NIMASA management has led to a great improvement of the country’s relationship with the IMO as a body and other Maritime Administrations who were members of the international body.
He said that “Nigeria was amongst the first ten (10) countries from the over 170 member nations of the IMO to submit itself for the IMO Member States Audit Scheme (IMSAS), this is seen as a show of direction of the current administration of maritime in Nigeria by the IMO adding that the IMO Secretary General Mr. Kitack Lim was pleased when the Minister of Transportation, Honorable Rotimi Amaechi informed him that the findings and observations of the IMO Member States Audit Scheme of Nigeria was being studied with a view to preparing and implementing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs) within the stipulated time frame”.
“The achievements of the Dr. Dakuku Peterside led Management at NIMASA in the past one year is an indication that the nation’s maritime sector is heading in the right direction. And the fact that the IMO is collaborating with Nigeria much more in the area of trainings and technical support shows that the international body is satisfied with NIMASA operations in recent times. By November this year, I can assure you that Nigeria’s election into the Category “C” at IMO will be an overwhelming one.”
“You will recall that when we lost our seat in Council in 2011, our implementation status was less than 13%. Today we have over 85% compliance level. So you can see that the international community is watching and appreciating our efforts” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Indigenous Ship Owners Association (NISA), Engr. Emmanuel Ilori has lamented that the nation has nothing to offer at the IMO Council at the moment.
Ilori who was speaking during an exclusive chat with MMS Plus newspaper, stressed that despite the immense potentials of the maritime sector in Nigeria, the nation was yet to make any development technically via ship building, repairs or maintenance or in the area of policy formulation that enhances maritime practice in Nigeria, Africa or globally.
“The IMO Council has three categories; Category ‘A’ for nations with the largest interest in maritime and shipping services, Category ‘B’ is for those with the largest interest in seaborne trade and Category ‘C’ which Nigeria is aiming for has a technical criteria with special interest in maritime transport. We need to understand that significant technical interest and business interest form part of the criteria for election into the Category ‘C’ of the IMO Council.”
“The election into Category ‘C’ is also to ensure that there is a global balance among the member states that make up the IMO. Hence, the distribution is about regions. In order to get into Category ‘C’, Nigeria has to be seen as a good representative of the African region. Let’s look at the African nations presently at the IMO Category ‘C’, they are; Egypt, which has the Suez canal, an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez, Egypt want to protect their interest. Another nation is Kenya, representing East Africa and Kenya has done a lot of work in making sure that they promote trade, shipping traffic and shipping generally for East Africa, especially the landlocked nations, so Kenya has a very significant interest because of its proximity to China and Asia. The other nation is South Africa, which is already a technologically advanced ship building country and they can claim that they have significant interest in shipping globally. Liberia is another nation that is in West Africa and they have a very large tonnage with regards to shipping traffic so the four regions of Africa are already represented at the IMO Council in the Category ‘C’.”
Engr. Ilori said that it is not likely that there would be a fifth country from Africa, hence Nigeria’s quest to get there would be an uphill task with the current state of the nation vis-à-vis the level of development of shipping in the country.
“What can we claim to be our justification apart from our potentials that should warrant a position at the IMO Council? The potential may be there but it is unrealized and we need to get our acts right as a nation with regards to shipping before we aim for a position at the IMO Council. In terms of development in shipping and the maritime industry, we haven’t done enough to be able to push the other African nations off.” Ilori added.
He maintained that the nation should be more concerned about resolving the many issues which continue to stifle the growth of maritime business in Nigeria
Nigerians are still at lost on the benefits of IMO Council’s membership, saying it is of no benefits to the nation.
However, nations interested in category C elections have begun their campaign and marketing since February this year, highlighting their unique selling points(USPs) to the IMO and other countries,Nigeria is rather busy with in-house fighting among workers of NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Transportation. Jamaica is one of the countries staging a come back to the Council. See what it has to offer.
Jamaica will be seeking re-election to the influential Council of the London-based IMO.
The country will be submitting its candidature to the Council’s Category ‘C’ for the 2018-2019 election period. Jamaica was elected to the Council during the 2008-2009 biennium and in the four succeeding biennia from 2010-2015.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, informed that the decision by the government to present Jamaica’s candidature to the Council is based on the belief that the country has much to contribute to the work of the organisation.
He noted that the IMO’s position in taking steps to prevent maritime pollution from ships strongly resonates with Jamaica.
“We attach importance to the protection of the environment. Our pristine beaches are some of the world’s best and serve as one of our main tourist attractions as well as for recreation for our people,” he said.
Mr. Holness, in pre-recorded remarks at a ceremony to launch Jamaica’s bid to the IMO at Jamaica House on February 2, noted further that “a healthy maritime environment is also important in maintaining the livelihood of our fisherfolk and the food security of our nation”.
He acknowledged that given Jamaica’s maritime interests, which are many and varied, it is imperative that the country take active part in international maritime organisations, which shape the global industry and impact Jamaica’s national and regional aspirations.
Prime Minister Holness said improvements to the working conditions of persons on board ships is also a “high priority” as Jamaica train seafarers for the global shipping industry.
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, noted that with over 90% of Jamaica’s international trade carried out by seafaring vessels, the country must have a vested interest to ensure that the rules governing activities at sea are reflective of the country’s national circumstances.
“The shipping industry has long been an important feature of the Jamaican economy. With the world’s seventh largest natural harbour, a highly ranked regional trans-shipment hub and an accredited maritime training institution for the training of officers…we support the implementation of internationally accepted regulations to promote these matters,” she said.
Mrs. Johnson Smith also echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiment that Jamaica has a keen interest in the protection and preservation of the marine environment.
For a nation that wants global maritime community to help re-elect her into Category C of the IMO Council, what are the marketing elements? What are Nigeria’s USPs?