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Kenya fights to retain IMO council seat after losing top job to Panama

Shipping & Logistics
 Kenyan delegation, led by, among others, Dr Nancy Karigithu and Manoah Esipisu, in London for the 2021 IMO meeting. Kenya was reelected under category ‘C’ during the meeting. [Robert Menza, Standard]

For 22 years, Kenya has enjoyed its position at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a council member.

But this position is under threat from other countries across the globe that have expressed interest in the post.

IMO council members make decisions for the world’s maritime sector, and many countries have intensified their campaign for the coveted post.

The government has now launched a bid for the country to be reelected to the 40-member IMO council under category ‘C’.

Kenya’s battle for the seat comes barely a month after it lost the IMO secretary-general post to Arsenio Velasco of the Republic of Panama who takes over on January 1 next year.

If Kenya is re-elected to the council for the biennium 2024 to 2025, it will be at an opportune time when the government has doubled its efforts to tap into the country’s Blue economy and maritime sector.

The elections will be held in London during the 33rd Session of the IMO General Assembly between November 27 and December 6.

Kenya’s re-election to the IMO Council will be of benefit to the region. The re-election will also serve the interests of the Eastern and Central Africa sub-region, Horn of Africa and West Indian Ocean.

Cabinet Secretary for Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs Salim Mvurya recently launched Kenya’s bid during the celebration to mark 50 years since the country joined IMO held in London.

 Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Kenya joined the IMO in 1973 and has been an active participant and supporter of IMO activities and a Council Member under Category ‘C’ from 2001 to date.

Category ‘C’ constitutes states that 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.

“Kenya remains committed to the ideals of the IMO and will continue to work with member states in the spirit of cooperation and friendship to address shipping challenges,” said Mr Mvurya.

Category ‘C’ constitutes 20 states not elected under ‘A’ or ‘B’ but 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 Kenya, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.

Category ‘B’ are 10 states that have the largest interest in international seaborne trade. They are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

Category ‘A’ 10 states have the largest interest in providing international shipping services. This category consists of China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Kenya was last elected into the Council under Category ‘C’ for the biennium of 2020 to 2021 by the IMO Assembly during the 31st Regular Session of the IMO General Assembly on November 29, 2019, at the IMO headquarters in London.

 From left: Newly elect  IMO secretary-general post to Arsenio Velasco, Maritime Affairs CS Salim Mvurya and Dr Nancy Karigithu. [File, Standard]

As a member of the IMO Council, Kenya is part of the executive organ of IMO and is responsible together with other elected member countries, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the IMO.

As a member of the Council, Kenya performs the following functions together with other elected members of the Council: coordinate the activities of the organs of the IMO, consider the draft work programmes and budget estimates of the IMO and submit them to the Assembly, receive reports and proposals of the Committees and other organs and submit them to the Assembly and Member States with comments and recommendations as appropriate.

Others are to take part in the election of the Secretary-General, subject to the approval of the Assembly and enter into agreements or arrangements concerning the relationship of the Organisation with other organisations subject to approval by the Assembly.

As a member of the Council, Kenya will also continue to support IMO’s initiatives.

Last month, Kenya’s Dr Nancy Karigithu was given the green light by the African Union to vie for the post of IMO secretary general which she lost to Mr Velasco. The 40-member IMO council participated in the secret ballot polls.

President William Ruto and Mvurya had lobbied for Karigithu, who is the presidential advisor on maritime and blue economy.

Kenya has long been known for its strong record on multi-literalism and South-South Tri-angular cooperation.

This was evidenced most recently in the co-hostship with Portugal, of the 2nd United Nations Oceans Conference in 2022, as well as organising the 1st ever Global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in November 2018.

At the height of piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia, Kenya became the first country to sign a transfer agreement that enabled the international navies patrolling the Indian Ocean to land suspected pirates, lending the country’s judicial and prison systems for their trial and incarceration.

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