By DAPO OLAWUNI
Nigeria has for the 5th time failed to clinch the coveted category C’ seat on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council.
DAILY TREND NEWS learnt that Nigeria lost to Kenya by one vote in the category C elections. Kenya got 111 votes while Nigeria got 110 votes. Saudi Arabia got 106, Poland 101, and Liberia got 100.
The last time the country got elected into the Council was in 2009 during the administration of Dr. Ade Dosunmu after its initial election in 2000.
The IMO on Friday 29th 2019 elected 40 States to be Members of its Council for the 2020-2021 biennium.
Category ‘A’ had10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services including; China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States.
Category ‘B’ had 10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade, they are; Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
On the category ‘C’ which Nigeria contested, it includes 20 States not elected under (a) or (b) above, which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world, they are; Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.
Whilst the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was preparing the country for the elections, a shipping expert and Deputy Ship Registrar of Liberian Flag, Capt Tony Onoharigho predicted in an interview with our correspondent that it was going to be difficult for Nigeria to win IMO election category C’ because she is not even on the White List or Grey List.
According to him, the only consideration Nigeria is having at IMO is just a favour because of her size.
The failure of Nigeria to review its Cabotage Act 2003 has continued to portray the country as unserious and unworthy to seat at the table with the ‘big boys’ of shipping.
Billions of Nigeria which has over the years accrued from the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) a product of the Cabotage Act which was meant to help indigenous shipowners grow their business has not been disbursed despite several appeals.
Piracy is another factor that has continued to work against Nigeria. The country has maintained its reputation as the hotbed of piracy and kidnapping for ransom in the Gulf of Guinea.
NIMASA had at the last elections two years ago blamed late preparation for the country losing out in the elections.
But this year, it was clear that Nigeria needs to do a lot of work to gain its international reputation back.
Although the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside is trying very hard, he is a business man and a government official, he plays the maritime politics very well, people should praise him, but so far, he appears to have failed in engaging the best materials for that job.
Maritime stakeholders are of the opinion that Peterside should rather concentrate attention on dragging Nigeria back to the Grey List, if we are in the Grey List, the next thing is to fight for White List.
By failing to be on the white list, NIMASA is not only failing to meet its obligation in terms of registering safe and seaworthy ships, it is also putting it’s clients at greater risk of operational difficulties.
This would make registering of a ship with NIMASA much less desirable to a ship owner.
For a ship owner, by flying the flag of a flag state with a poor record and which appears on the grey and black lists heightens the chances of their ships being inspected.
Ships that fly the flag of a state on the black list are considered to have a high risk profile. When such a ship is due in a UK port for example, the operator, agent or Master must notify the Maritime and Coastguard Agency 72 hours in advance of its arrival, and the ship is more likely to be inspected than a ship on the white list.
Additionally, when a ship is flying a black listed flag, any detentions and Prevention of Operations are taken into account for a longer period of time. This means that the ship is more susceptible to being banned from a region.
The goal of every flag state should be to appear on the white list, and as high up on the list as possible. To fail to appear on the white list indicates that the flag state is not fulfilling its obligation of ensuring that its fleet is meeting the requirements of the International community.
Meanwhile, the newly elected IMO Council will meet, following the conclusion of the 31st Assembly, for its 123rd session (on December 5) and will elect its Chair and Vice-Chair for the next biennium.
The 31st Assembly of IMO is meeting in London at IMO Headquarters from November 25 to December 4, 2019. All 174 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend the Assembly, which is IMO’s highest governing body.
The Assembly normally meets once every two years in regular session. It is responsible for approving the work program, voting the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. It also elects the Organization’s 40-Member Council.