• Kenya is pulling out all the stops to be re-elected and retain its seat at the category C at IMO in the face of fierce competition. 
  • The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialized agency charged with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
  • The country’s re-election will ensure continued representation of a major geographic region spanning the Western Indian Ocean, East Africa and the African Great Lakes region consisting of many developing countries.

On Friday, Kenya’s High Commissioner in London, Manoah Esipisu, Principal Secretary, Kenya shipping and maritime affairs, Nancy Karigithu and the Kenya Maritime Authority Director-General, Major (Rtd) George Nyamoko Okong’o, led a Kenyan delegation in a cocktail reception at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) headquarters in London to woo members to support the country’s re-election bid for 2020-2021.

Kenya is pulling out all the stops to be re-elected and retain its seat at the category C at IMO in the face of fierce competition. This year, Category C has turned out to be very competitive and many of the contesting countries are sparing no resources to secure a seat at the table.

Statue of Kenyan flag raising at Independence.
Statue of Kenyan flag raising at Independence.

Category C so far has 28 candidates for 20 slots, with new entrants being Antigua and Barbuda, Poland, Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Kenya became a member of the IMO in 1973 and was first elected to the Council under Category "C" in 2001 and has been re-elected in subsequent elections to date.

International Maritime Organisation Break Down

International Maritime Organization. (Flickr)
International Maritime Organization. (Flickr)

The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialized agency charged with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

The Council is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization.

Every two years member countries are elected to the council. The last election was held in 2017 for the 2018-2019 biennium calendar.

Category ‘A’

These comprise 10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services: It is made of China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States.

Category ‘B’

These comprise of the 10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade: It is made of Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates.

Category ‘C’

These comprise 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: It is currently made of Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey.

Why Kenya’s is fighting to remain in the big boys club

The Council is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. (maritime-executive)
The Council is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. (maritime-executive)

Dr Karigithu says re-election will enable Kenya make a greater contribution on maritime issues considering its position and the number of clients being served by Kenyan ports.

“We have a long traditional seafaring spanning hundreds of years. We host major maritime trading and tanker routes between Europe, the Far East and the Americas and we are an important gateway serving a combined population of over 300 million people who rely on our international ports,” she said.

Kenya, she added, is aware of the huge role played by the maritime sector in the social economic fabric of the society, not just in East Africa but in the entire global maritime community.

"Kenya having served in the Council in the past Biennium and for having been given the opportunity to actively participate in a wide range of IMO issues, it has greatly contributed in improving marine issues and more so encouraging more women to participate in marine issues," she noted.

Principal Secretary, Kenya shipping and maritime affairs, Nancy Karigithu speaking at a past event. (Twitter)
Principal Secretary, Kenya shipping and maritime affairs, Nancy Karigithu speaking at a past event. (Twitter)

Dr. Karigithu added that Kenya has earned its stripes in blue economy matters globally having successfully hosted the landmark marine conference under the theme ‘the blue economy and the 2030 agenda of the sustainable development’ in November last year.

In 2018, Kenya held its Sh800 million ($8 million) blue economy conference that saw 17,600 participants from 183 countries ranging from Heads of States to private citizens and hundreds of organizations and agencies attend.

However, despite boosting total maritime territory covering 230,000 square kilometers and a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore or better still as big as 31 of the 47 counties combined according to Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), Kenya’s blue economy has laid underutilized for years thanks to lack of water tight policies, effective leadership, innovative technologies and continuous under funding by government.

Also read: How Kenya is missing out on billions in freight charges annually as the dream to revive Kenya National Shipping Line gathers moss and slowly turns into a mirage

In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service to boost maritime security and protect the country’s resources like fish and oil.
In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service to boost maritime security and protect the country’s resources like fish and oil.

That tide is slowly changing though and Kenya has moved with speed in recent times to tap into the blue economy.

Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service to boost maritime security and protect the country’s resources like fish and oil. Kenya also signed a deal with six countries that border the Indian Ocean to share information on their maritime domain.

Last month, the government announced it would be pumping Sh19.3 billion ($193million) to modernize and upgrade four berths at the port of Mombasa, East Africa’s largest port.

A general view of the commissioned berth No. 19 at Kilindini Port in Kenyan's coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga
A general view of the commissioned berth No. 19 at Kilindini Port in Kenyan's coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga
Reuters

Built in 1895, the port of Mombasa is the main gateway for the East Africa region serving Kenya and its neighbors including South Sudan Uganda, Rwanda, and Somalia.

Kenya is also currently building a new transport corridor linking a new and modern Port of Lamu with Garissa, Isiolo, Maralal, Lodwar and Lokichogio and branching at Isiolo to Moyale at the border with Ethiopia and proceeding to the border with Southern Sudan.

Once complete, Lamu port is expected to attract larger cargo ships which would traditionally pass through the ports of Sudan, Djibouti and Mombasa and if run efficiently, it will also provide direct benefits within the region by passing on savings derived from lower marine costs due to faster ship turnaround time and at the same time of reducing the cost of doing business.

Kenya’s re-election is a win for East Africa

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L), President Uhuru Kenyatta (M) and Rwanda's Paul Kagame (R) pose for a photo after commissioning a New Berth at the Port of Mombasa. (Nairobi wire)
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L), President Uhuru Kenyatta (M) and Rwanda's Paul Kagame (R) pose for a photo after commissioning a New Berth at the Port of Mombasa. (Nairobi wire)

The country’s re-election will ensure continued representation of a major geographic region spanning the Western Indian Ocean, East Africa and the African Great Lakes region consisting developing countries such as Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the Island nations of Seychelles and the Comoros.

As a coastal, port and flag state and whose strategic location along the Eastern Africa coast ensures that the country continues to be an important cog in the wheel steering global shipping, Kenya has special interests in shipping and maritime transport and navigation.

There are number of advantages being in the governing council as it’s the IMO which sets global standards for maritime safety and marine environmental protection. Thus, it is paramount to be elected for the Council which functions as the IMO's governing board and decides on the IMO strategy and budget among other things.