Pretoria: 15 December 2021
South Africa’s failure to retain its seat in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council last Friday, coupled with Nigeria’s failed effort to gain a seat, has come as a significant disappointment for the country.
That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) following the country’s loss of its seat during elections of the IMO’s 40-member Council for the 2022-2023 biennium in London last week.
South Africa, along with Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco were the five African IMO Member States and candidates vying for a seat in the IMO 40-member council. Egypt, Morocco, and Kenya retained their seats.
Reacting to the development at the weekend, SAMSA said it was disappointed for South Africa following Friday’s IMO Council elections. SAMSA, a State agency operating under the Department of Transport, works closely with the department and relevant others in terms of IMO related matters. SAMSA and DOT officials often travel to the IMO in London where they serve of different IMO committees and South Africa also has a permanent representative at the organisation.
However, both DoT and SAMSA officials could not make it to London this time around for this year’s IMO 32nd Regular Session of the Assembly where the IMO Council was elected, due to strict travel conditions related to the recent and currently ongoing resurgence of Covid-19 pandemic infections across the world.
The United Kingdom immediately placed South Africa on its travel ‘red list’ shortly after the announcement by South Africa health scientists of the discovery in South Africa of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19.
Thus, on Friday, senior DoT officials inclusive of the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga; Acting Director-General, Mr Mthunzi Madiya supported by staff from Maritime Branch as well as SAMSA Acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane and Head of SAMSA Corporate Affairs, Mr Vusi September; gathered at a Pretoria venue to participate virtually during the IMO Assembly session from Monday last week.
Leading to Friday’s IMO Council elections, South Africa was cautiously optimistic it would retain its seat on the Council. However, when the vote outcome was eventually announced in London late afternoon, there was visible disappointment among all the officials gathered in Pretoria for the event.
For limited highlights of Friday’s event in London and Pretoria, click on the video below.
In the aftermath, with a formal country reaction statement expected from Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula; SAMSA’s acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Mashiloane expressed disappointment insofar as SAMSA was concerned.
“For SAMSA, it is just to say that we are deeply disappointed by the outcome of the IMO Council vote, but even so, we will continue supporting the IMO work and ensure that we continue with our concerted efforts in respective committees to advance the African approach with respect to implementation of IMO Conventions we have acceded to. So, emphasis will be enhancing our work in Legal, Technical Committes, MSC and MEPC,” she said.
After the conclusion of the elections, the IMO congratulated the 40 Member States that were voted to constitute the Council for 2022-2023 biennium as follows:
- Category (a): 10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services (listed in alphabetical order)
China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States
- Category (b): 10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade:
Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates
- Category (c): 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:
Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and Vanuatu.
The IMO statement further said: “The newly elected Council will meet, following the conclusion of the 32nd Assembly, for its 126th session (on 15 December) and will elect its Chair and Vice-Chair for the next biennium.”