Diasporian News of Friday, 11 July 2014

Source: Ghana High Commission

High Commission calls on Secretary General of IMO

Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Mr. Victor Emmanuel Smith recently paid a courtesy call on the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Mr. Koji Sekimizu at the organizations’ offices in London.

High Commissioner Smith who is also the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the IMO exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Sekimizu and held discussions over a wide range of issues on maritime security and safety. Mr. Sekimizu said he was delighted to receive the Ghanaian High Commissioner and that Ghana was one of the key members of the IMO. He mentioned Dr. Thomas Mensah a former Deputy Secretary-General and director of legal and external Affairs of the IMO and recipient of the 2013 maritime prize and Dr. Kofi Mbiah, Chairman of the Legal Committee of the IMO as some shining examples of Ghanaians who provide invaluable support to the IMO.

HE Victor Smith said he was delighted that Ghana was held in such high esteem at the IMO and that Ghanaians were playing such crucial roles at the IMO. He noted that because of the high amount of trade through the seas, it was important that member countries place a premium on security. He expressed his appreciation to the Secretary-General for IMO’s untiring efforts towards promoting maritime security in West and Central Africa and particularly for the assistance Ghana has received in the area of Maritime Security in recent times. He also commended the Secretary-General for initiating the IMO West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund.

On the subject of the rise in incidents of illicit maritime activity in the Gulf of Guinea, Mr. Sekimizu expressed his hope that recent measures put in place would lead to a reduction in incidents. He mentioned the success that had been chalked against piracy in South-East Asia and more recently in the Gulf of Aden. He mentioned that historically where piracy was prominent, a mechanism of regional and international cooperation among various maritime institutions had helped to reduce piracy and other illicit maritime activity.

Mr. Sekimizu said the decline in these incidents was due largely to effective sea patrols and the shipping industry’s application of best management practices. He added that established international guidelines also ensured a rigorous code of conduct for maritime practitioners and disclosed that the information sharing center which was established under the regional cooperation agreement on combating piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP) facilitates information exchange among contracting parties on incidents of piracy and armed robbery.

The Secretary-General expressed his hope that the code of conduct for the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa, would prove just as effective as its other regional counter-parts.

Focusing on Ghana, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner discussed other issues related to the protection of the maritime environment and the safety of seafarer and vessels and the facilitation of trade.

His Excellency Victor Smith informed the Secretary-General that the security of the maritime domain was of prime importance to Ghana and that recently maritime security discussions centered on how to protect Ghana’s offshore oil fields and trading maritime traffic. He added that Ghana is very committed to regional and national efforts aimed at ensuring maritime security especially at a time when it is attracting a lot of investor interest.

In response to enquiries relating to IMO’s regulation of the fishing industry, Mr Sekimizu explained the organization’s role in ensuring the safety of vessels and personnel in the fishing industry and highlighted the necessity for Ghana to consider ratifying the Cape Town Agreement since it would help to ensure the safety of fishing vessels and seafarers involved in that industry. He emphasized that the added advantage provided by the implementation of the convention would provide a platform to better regulate the fishing industry and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

The Secretary-General stated that the maritime industry is important for industrialization and economic advancement, and that developing countries must look into opportunities and possibilities afforded by the maritime industry as a catalyst for growth. Mr. Sekimizu emphasized that governments who are intent on economic development should consider placing a premium on the maritime industry and international shipping, adding that “Maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment should be high on such a government’s agenda”.

His Excellency the High Commissioner thanked the Secretary General for the warm reception and expressed his and Ghana’s support for the IMO, stressing that its ideals and objectives are complimentary to government’s aim to encourage investment and accelerate growth. He complemented the theme for 2014 world maritime day “IMO conventions: effective implementation” and said he would bring to attention the need to ratify relevant conventions with the relevant authorities in Ghana. High Commissioner Smith was accompanied by Mrs. Azara Al-Hassan Prempeh, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the IMO and other officers of the Mission.

By: Information and Public Affairs Bureau Ghana High Commission London