Seven candidates will be battling it out to occupy the position of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General, which is slated to take place on July 18th, 2023, at the organization’s headquarters in London.
Seven IMO member states have each nominated a candidate for the top job after the term ends of the current office holder, Kitack Lim of South Korea, on December 31, 2023. The successful candidate will take over the IMO leadership mantle from 1st January 2024.
The IMO Council in its 128th session, in December 2022, approved the procedures for holding the election of the Secretary-General this year during the 2023 session of the Council (C 129).
IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, a global standard-setting authority for the safety, security, and environmental performance of international shipping.
Following the election in July 2023, the decision of the Council will be submitted to the 33rd session of the Assembly of IMO in late 2023. The Assembly will be invited to approve the new office holder.
The Council, with a membership of 40 countries, is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization, including the election of the Secretary-General.
It has three categories of Members. Category A is composed of 10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services that currently include China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.
Category B has also 10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade. Today, they include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates.
And Category C has 20 states not elected under (a) or (b) above, which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation.
They include the Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Türkiye, and Vanuatu.
In this roundabout way, it is now crucial for us to flesh out the candidates in offer qualifications to have a glimpse of what may sway the council’s outcome if this is what will dictate its pace.
Kenya has Ambassador Ms. Nancy Karigithu as its candidate, who has also been endorsed by the African Union (AU). The Center for Ocean Policy and Economics (COPE), in January this year also endorsed her for the IMO top job.
COPE describes itself as a facilitator for cogent maritime and ocean policy and economic development project initiatives linking academic, corporate, non-governmental, and governmental partners to create impactful solutions, largely in maritime and oceans.
“Ambassador Karigithu reflects the mission of COPE and its guiding principles outstandingly: Responsibility, Transparency, Accountability, Sustainability, Innovation, Collaboration, Resilience, and Human Empowerment,” is how the COPE described her work after endorsement.
Seen as one of the most qualified candidates for the position on the list, Ms. Karigithu has been involved in numerous positions, projects, and research to improve the shipping industry.
Globally, she has served three terms as Chair of the IMO Technical Cooperation Committee. As the Principal Secretary and Special Envoy for Maritime and Blue Economy in Kenya’s State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs, she has been a senior delegate of the Kenyan government to IMO meetings for over eighteen years when she also served as Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Director General and has been instrumental in the implementation of IMO programs both in Kenya and throughout the African region.
During a career that spans a period of 36 years in shipping and maritime-related issues, she has taken part in improving diversity in shipping.
For instance, she was involved in the setting up and launch of the Association of Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern & Southern Africa (WOMESA) where she served for two terms as a chairperson and now sits on the governing council.
She guided Kenya’s successful bid to host the Maritime Technology Cooperation Center for Africa (MTTC-Africa), the IMO/EU project aimed at building capacity in the African continent to mitigate climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from ships.
She sits in the Governing Council of the World Maritime University, based, in Sweden, the Board of Governors for the IMO International Maritime Training Institute, and is also Vice President (Africa) for the International Maritime Satellite Organization.
A maritime lawyer by profession, she has worked with IMO as a consultant for many years and she helped the agency to successfully establish maritime administration agencies in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Seychelles, Ethiopia, and Gambia after the organization knew her work at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) legal department, where her successful career journey as a maritime expert took roots. She would later spearhead the creation of KMA and later serve it as the Director General for 9 years.
The IMO could have a history in offing in its 64 years history with a woman as its head. Apart from Ms. Karigithu, there are two other women on the list of candidates who are of no mean repute. Minna Kivimäki from Finland and Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry from Dominica.
Kivimäki holds a Master of Law and is the permanent secretary at the Finnish Ministry of Transport & Communications. Since 2016, Kivimäki has worked as Deputy Permanent Representative and Coreper 1 representative at the Permanent Representation of Finland to the EU. Prior to this, she worked at the Ministry of Transport and Communications as Director General of the Transport Policy Department and of the Services Department, and as Director of the Transport Services Unit.
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, the other female candidate considered also to be strong will seek to represent Dominica as the first female President of the World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden. She once worked as the Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland.
She began her career at the University of the West Indies, Barbados, as a lecturer in law. She worked with the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague, The Netherlands, and then joined the ILO in 1986 from where she has served as a senior lawyer of the organization and in other management positions.
She had responsibility for the progress of the Maritime Labour Convention within the ILO. She is a Barrister of Law and a Solicitor, entitled to practice in all English-speaking Caribbean jurisdictions; she is also a member of the Inner Temple, the Inns of Court, UK.
Bangladesh has thrown its weight behind Mr. Moin Uddin Ahmed, who was elected as the Director-General of the International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO) in their 25th assembly session.
He was first elected as the Director General in November 2014 and commenced his position in April 2015. He was a Senior Technical Officer in IMO Maritime Safety Division before his nomination as the Director General of IMSO in 2014.
Ahmed joined Bangladesh Navy in 1976. He obtained a Certificate of Competency as a Master Mariner from South Shields Marine and Technical College in 1985 and a Master of Science from World Marine University in 1989. He was a Senior Technical Officer in IMO Maritime Safety Division before his nomination as the Director General of IMSO in 2014.
The other candidate is Suat Hayri Aka, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Turkiye to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He has served as an Undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs and Communications, and in the private sector as Chief Executive Officer of Shipping Companies, an Ocean-Going Captain, and a Lecturer of Maritime Affairs.
Panama has fronted Mr. Arsenio Antonio Dominguez Velasco is currently serving as the Director of the Marine Environment Division of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), having served previously as Director of Administrative Division, and Chief of Staff.
Before joining IMO in July 2017, Mr. Dominguez worked for the Panama Maritime Authority starting in 1998 as Head of the Regional Technical and Documentation Office for Europe and North Africa, and as Alternate Representative and Technical Adviser of Panama to IMO from 2004 to 2014. In July 2014, he was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Panama to IMO.
And finally, China has nominated Zhang Xiaojie, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division at IMO. Mr. Zhang graduated from World Maritime University in 1999 with an MSc in Maritime Affairs, specializing in Maritime Safety and Environmental Protection (Administration).
Mr. Zhang has held a succession of posts in the Government of China since 1987. Within China’s Ministry of Transport, he has served as Director of International Organizations and Multilateral Affairs, as well as Director of Bilateral and Regional Cooperation, both within the Department of International Cooperation.
Since 2012 he has served as Deputy Director-General for the Department of International Cooperation within China’s Ministry of Transport, and as Chair of IMO Council since 2017. Since 2015, he has headed the Chinese delegation to IMO Council and the Marine Environment Protection Committee and at the International Labour Organization during a six-year period that led to the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 as amended.
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