Liberia has made a triumphant return to the top tier of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) following Friday’s election to ‘Category A’ of the Council of the World Maritime body with 132 votes at the 33rd Assembly session.
Liberia was last elected to ‘Category C’ of the Council in 2011 after two failed attempts to get back to ‘Category A’ in 2007 and 2009- following the country’s dropping off in 1995.
Liberia, however, lost its ‘Category C’ place in 2019. Thereafter, the Government of Liberia made an informed policy decision to seek a seat in the category that is commensurate with its standing within the global maritime trade and governance.
A decision which was based on feedbacks from majority of Member States who argued that ‘Category C’ was not the rightful place for Liberia, instead ‘Category A’ as per Article 17(a) of the IMO Convention which represents “ten States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services”.
Addressing a reception held to reinforce Liberia’s case to the delegates at the IMO Headquarters in London, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Cllr. Deweh Gray recounted Liberia’s extensive role in promoting the ideals of the IMO as well as being a strategic partner in spearheading global maritime affairs.
With a pristine coastline stretching across three hundred miles, Liberia boasts four operational ports facilitating global maritime trade.
She intoned that these ports make it possible for Liberia to supply commodities such cocoa, iron ore, rubber, and timber to the world market.
Minister Gray stressed Liberia’s dedicated commitment to the IMO since its founding in 1959 and has consistently been one of the largest contributors to the budget of the Organization.
The Minister recalls that the Liberian Registry is the number one in the world today standing at more than 200 million registered gross tonnage (GRT) with over 5000 vessels.
The Liberian Registry is also whitelisted on all leading MOUs, including the Paris and Tokyo MOUs. The Registry is reputed for high international standards as specified by the IMO.
Liberia is also host to one of five IMO regional search and rescue centers in Africa. The Monrovia Region Coordination Centre covers Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Thus, Liberia ensures safety is a critical component for facilitating sustainable maritime trade. The Minister also indicated that the Freeport of Monrovia meets the international safety compliance standard of the 2004 ISPS Code, as well as the US Coast Guard Safety Standards.
The Liberia Maritime Training Institute equips the new generation of seafarers with top-notch skills to meet the demand for trained manpower for global seaborne trade. Liberia is also a board member and sponsor of the Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana.
The ratification of key IMO instruments further demonstrates Liberia’s commitment to the objectives and goals of the IMO. Liberia and Bangladesh recently rectified the Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling in June this year. Thus, meeting the entry-into-force requirement.
Most importantly, she mentioned Liberia’s continuing commitment to IMO is underscored by the presence of its Permanent Mission to IMO in London, which participates actively in all meetings of the Organisation.
Additionally, the landmark IMO 2023 GHG Strategy on CO2 emissions reduction in shipping at MEPC80 in July this year was under the able leadership of Liberia through the Country’s Alternate Permanent Representative to IMO, Dr Harry Conway as MEPC Chair.
She said a further testament to Liberia’s commitment to IMO is the election of Dr Conway as Chair of Committee 2 for technical matters of the 33rd Assembly session.
Internationally acclaimed Liberian musical icon, Miatta Fahnbulleh, also entertained the gathering with a wonderful musical performance.
The ceremony also put on display varying Made in Liberia products highlighting the importance of local manufacturing.
Presenting Liberia’s declaration of interest to the IMO Secretary-General early during the year, the Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), Lenn Eugene Nagbe remarked that: ‘Category A’ seat on the IMO Council will accord Liberia the standing reflective of its role in the sector.
During the presentation to the Secretary-General of the IMO in February of this year, Liberia’s Ambassador accredited to London, Madam Gurly T. Gibson Schwarz, stressed Liberia’s “progressive” history with the IMO and its diversified contributions towards the organization’s growth and development.
She noted that a ”Category A” presence on the IMO represents an important goal, which will be commensurate with Liberia’s status. She indicated that it will also ensure more strategic contributions from Liberia.
The outgoing Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Kitack Lim, also hailed Liberia for its role and important contributions to the IMO and the maritime industry over the years.
Additionally, Liberia will have its first sitting since elected to the IMO on 7th December 2023 represented by Ambassador Gurly Gibson Schwarz and Hon. Harry Conway, Acting Permanent Representative and Chair of the MEPC.