Cape Town: 29 November 2017
South Africa’s bid to retain its seat in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) General Council got underway in earnest in London on Tuesday after the country’s deputy Transport Minister Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga addressed the assembly during its final gathering of 2017 which ends in early December.
The IMO Council whose members are drawn from 40 Member States around the world, is the executive organ of the IMO responsible for supervising the work of the international organization. The IMO Council is elected by the IMO Assembly for two-year terms.
The IMO’s General Assembly meets for its last meeting in 2017 on 7 December.
For IMO purposes, the Africa (sub-Saharan) region is composed of 48 countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and of these, 37 are IMO Member States.
According to the IMO, the Africa region has a combined total coastline of 30,725 km with South Africa, – located epicenter across three oceans, the Atlantic to the west, the Southern in the south and the Indian Ocean to the east – accounting for approximately 10% or 3200 km of that coastline.
In her address of the IMO in London on Tuesday, Ms Chikunga noted that South Africa was the only country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region of Africa standing for re-election in the IMO Council and in South Africa’s viewpoint, it was only correct that IMO Member States in Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceanic states should support the country’s retention as a member of the IMO Council.
“The re-election of South Africa to the Council will ensure that the developing countries in general and the African continent in particular gets a fair voice in the international maritime affairs,” said Ms Chikunga.
Ms Chikunga further highlighted several other factors in which South Africa remains a central player towards the IMO and the world’s pursuit of particularly sustainable development of oceans economies.
According to Ms Chikunga, shipping which is responsible for more than 80% of global trade, continues to play a very critical and prominent role in connecting people worldwide which phenomenon she said placed the IMO at the epicentre of ensuring that such global activities were accomplished seamlessly, without unnecessary hindrances.
She said: “International trade is very central and critical to many African countries, whether landlocked or coastal states. In that regard, the Africa Union took a conscious decision to adopt the 2050 African Maritime Integrated Strategy (AIMS) which seeks to provide a broad framework for the protection and sustainable exploitation of the African Maritime Domain for wealth creation. South Africa is actively operationalizing the provisions of that Strategy.
For its role in global maritime trade transport, Ms Chikunga said South Africa has eight (8) commercial ports that handle in excess of 13 100 international ship traffic a year and approximately 300 million tonnes of cargo annually.
Geographically, along with its own infrastructure, the country was strategically located on one of the major vital shipping lanes known as the ‘Cape Route’ that connects east and west seas thereby placing the country among critical role-players in world maritime affairs.
These factors according to Ms Chikunga were significant given that the IMO plays a crucial role towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially on climate change and gender equality, and South Africa is well placed to continue to support the initiatives through collaborative efforts with relevant stakeholders.
This she reflected on as a United Nations led conference is underway in Cape Town this week, looking at regional collaborations on the implementation of the ‘Large Marine Ecosystem Approach’ as an instrument towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 14. The conference is being held at the V&A Waterfront parallel this year’s South Africa leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18
In London on Tuesday, Ms Chikunga also impressed on the IMO gathering that alongside development, there also are issues of safety and security that are crucial to orderly management of the oceans.
“In support of international efforts to bring security and stability in the broader Indian Ocean under the Djibouti Code of Conduct, South Africa adopted a Strategy intending to curb acts of piracy and armed robbery of ships. In that regard, South Africa deployed her navy vessels along the Mozambique Channel as a deterrent to acts of piracy and armed robbery of ships in the southern Indian Ocean area,” said Ms Chikunga
In addition she said: “As part of our coastal State obligation, we continue to provide reliable Search and Rescue services to international shipping in our region which extends to the Antarctica.
“Furthermore, South Africa, through partnership with the IMO, has converted her highly reliable Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) to the Regional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Cape Town to assist ships in distress in the Region,” she said.
The South Africa bid to retain its seat on the IMO Council occurs as the southern African country prepares to host it’s inaugural IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2020.
That event, tentatively scheduled for Durban, is intended to highlight the significant role of global shipping and the role of the IMO.