What do we know about the IMO?

Even though we’ve been told he never attended a single meeting since being appointed Saint Lucia’s representative to the International Maritime Organization in 2014, thanks to Walid Juffali the IMO is now a familiar acronym and is making local news. Like the Juffali affair, Saint Lucia’s association with the organization remains shrouded. My own research has shown that the only documented mention of the IMO in connection with Saint Lucia was in a piece on the then newly appointed High Commissioner to London, Ernest Hilaire, featured in a 2012 issue of Embassy Magazine.

After explaining in some detail to the magazine the issues confronting Saint Lucia – the withdrawal of preferential treatment once afforded bananas, “demands for greater tax transparency from companies with offshore subsidiaries” and “climate change”, the High Commissioner had cited ties to various organizations. According to Dr. Hilaire, Multilateral institutions like the Commonwealth Secretariat offer an ideal forum to give voice to such issues.” The Embassy Magazine story pointed out that the High Commissioner would also be devoting time to the IMO, given the importance of maritime issues to Saint Lucia.


So what exactly is the IMO? For starters the International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.According to its website IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.

In other words, its role is to create a level playing field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency. Further, international shipping transports about 90 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. Shipping is the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation for most goods; it provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples. The world relies on a safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry – and this is provided by the regulatory framework developed and maintained by IMO.

The organization is clearly very important. One would imagine that any local ties to an organization such as the IMO should include the involvement of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority; to the best of our knowledge this appears not to be the case—even though SLASPA has its own maritime consultant who recently admitted he knew next to nothing about the IMO and just as little about Saint Lucia’s representative on the organization’s board. Several meetings of the IMO are slated for early 2016, including one on pollution prevention and response, and another on safety of navigation, communication and search and rescue. Serious issues. So, will Walid Juffali deign to attend on Saint Lucia’s behalf? The record shows he has failed to attend even one of the 27 IMO meetings since his appointment.

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