Why Liberia Lost Its Seat On The International Maritime Organization

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MONROVIA – Liberia would no longer be a major decision-maker at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the next two years, except at its general assembly after losing its seat at the IMO Council to Kuwait in the Council elections held on November 30 in London.

Every two years, more than 170-member countries meet at the IMO assembly in London to elect members of its governing council. Losing a seat on IMO’s Council means Liberia, which has the second-largest ship registry in the world, is now rendered a floor member with no power to make decisions.

The Council is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization.  Between sessions of the Assembly, the Council performs all the functions of the Assembly, except that of making recommendations to Governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention.

After being about for about 11 years, Liberia ascended to the Council in 2012 and has since been consistent in maintaining the biannual seat until this year. 

Losing a seat on the IMO’s Council means Liberia who has the second largest ship registry globally (about 4,400 plus) is now effectively rendered a floor member of the IMO with no power to make decisions.

After the election, the head of Liberia Maritime Authority, Dr. James F. Kollie, posted to Facebook, “After the election, the We fought a great fight today at the IMO but we lost. Liberia will not be on Council this biennial (2020 to 2021). However, we will put the pieces together and return for another fight. Hats off to the London team and all those who supported us.”

Liberia Didn’t Work Harder

“These decisions are made in foreign capitals. It’s a diplomatic thing. Governments lobby with governments for support at the IMO and perhaps, Liberia just didn’t work harder.”

– Dr. John F. Kollie, Commissioner, Liberia Maritime Auhority

Speaking to FrontPageAfrica Dr. Kollie the decision as to who gets elected are made long before the elections are held. “These decisions are made in foreign capitals. It’s a diplomatic thing. Governments lobby with governments for support at the IMO and perhaps, Liberia just didn’t work harder,” he said.

He said voters in London take instructions from their governments back home. He said, losing at the Council seat does not in anyway affect Liberia’s maritime program, noting that being a member of the Council is about the prestige it brings to the country. “Nigeria has contested four consecutive times and has not been successful, we have been consistently elected since 2012; we just need to work harder next time. 

He refuted speculations that Liberia the seat was lost due to the country’s failure to meet up with its due payments to the IMO. According to him, Liberia is the second highest due payer owing to the fact that the country has the second largest number of registered ships in the world. “We’re the first to cut check for the IMO. Our payment is always ready in February every year. We are very regular with our payment, we don’t owe anything,” he said.

Could It Be Jackson-Government Row?

The government held the Permanent Representative here passport. He could not travel, he could not adequately perform his function. How then can he lobby with other countries for votes? It is no surprise that we lost our seat. I saw it coming. The government was warned but took it for granted.

– Source, IMO Mission, London

 FrontPageAfrica gathered from reliable sources within the Liberia’s IMO mission that the Weah-led administration failed to provide funding for lobbying which is usually organized through the forms of dinner with foreign governments where Liberia’s interest at the IMO is discussed. 

In addition to that, staff working with IMO mission in London, according to the source, have not been paid for the past 10 months, making it difficult for them to effectively carryout their mandate. 

Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the IMO, Atty. Isaac Jackson declined to comment on the matter, however, this paper gathered that his row the Weah-led administration was a key factor in the country losing its seat at the IMO Council. 

“The government held the Permanent Representative here passport. He could not travel, he could not adequately perform his function. How then can he lobby with other countries for votes? It is no surprise that we lost our seat. I saw it coming. The government was warned but took it for granted.

According to the source, Liberia being the second largest ship registry with about 4,400 ships, losing its seat at the IMO has the propensity to cause some ships to reconsider their registry as Liberia might be influential in making decisions to protect its interest.

In May this year, Atty. Jackson wrote Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, informing him of the refusal of the Government of Liberia to renew diplomatic passport for him and his family.

The refusal on the part of the government, Atty. Isaac Jackson said, is in disrespect to the Supreme Court’s July 23, 2018 Stay Order on his replacement at the IMO in which the Court ordered that all matters go to status quo.

He reminded that the Court that his then lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson was instructed to work along with the then Solicitor General, Cllr. Daku Mulbah to renew his diplomatic passport and that of his wife and two children.

“Since Your Honor’s mandate a little over a month ago, I have not received our passports which I believe is in continuation of the Government’s violation of the Stay Order issued by the Honorable Supreme Court on July 23, 2019,” he wrote.

n addition to the denial of diplomatic passports, Jackson alleged that the government has not paid him for the past four consecutive months. “This has made life for me and my family extremely difficult. The cost of living in London is painfully high; which is now taking a toll on me and my family.”

The IMO Representative has also called on the Chief Justice to decide whether Cllr. Johnson’s withdrawal from legal representation having had final argument and awaiting the Court’s opinion is consistent with the rules of the Supreme Court.

According to him, upon receiving Cllr. Johnson’s notice of withdrawal, he wrote him, reminding him that in keeping with the Supreme Court’s opinion, having accepted representation and argued the case before the full-bench of the Supreme Court, he was estopped from withdrawing from the case while awaiting the court’s opinion.

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