Shipping Deputy Minister Vassilios Demetriades (left), European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean, and IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim at the Maritime Cyprus conference in October 2022

Six eye key IMO post, Cypriot ‘unlikely’

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Up to six names are expected to be put forward as the next Secretary-General of the world’s supreme shipping body by Friday, replacing South Korean Kitack-Lim who steps down at the end of the year, with no European candidate so far.

Two of the front-runners are high ranking officials from within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), expected to be proposed by Panama and Kenya, with Turkey’s candidacy getting a boost from rival Greece.

Panama has proposed Arsenio Dominguez, the current IMO head of marine environment, while Kenya wants the top job to go to Nancy Karigithu, the country’s IMO representative.

Dominica and Bangladesh may also submit names, with the Caribbean state proposing World Maritime University president Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, while a Danish candidate may also be in the running.

The 40-member IMO Council, of which Cyprus is a member, will elect the next Secretary-General in July. This decision will then be submitted to the 33rd session of the IMO Assembly on November 27-December 6, when the 40 new members of the Council will also be elected.

A candidate from Cyprus is regarded as ‘highly unlikely’, despite former deputy minister for shipping, Vassilis Demetriades, being approached by European members of the IMO.

“I was sounded out by several European members, due to the lack of any other European candidate,” Demetriades told the Financial Mirror.

He said he was assured of support from ‘a number of European members’, but the fact remained that candidacies are put forward by IMO member states, not individuals.

“The fact that I was considered, is a great honour for me, and recognises my previous 12-year career within the European Commission, as well as Shipping Deputy Minister for Cyprus,” he said.

“The EU is my family. I did my duty and served the previous administration quite well, I believe.”

Spanner in the works

A Cypriot candidate would throw a spanner in the works of Greek-Turkish rapprochement, after Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu received official support from Athens for Suat Hayri Aka, the former undersecretary for maritime affairs at the Turkish transport ministry.

In turn, Nicos Dendias was given assurance from Ankara regarding Greece’s membership for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Raising concerns that a Turkish Secretary-General of the IMO would be to the detriment of the Cyprus shipping sector, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Monday that, “the Republic of Cyprus is a member state of the IMO and is elected to a very high position by the Organisation’s plenary session.

“There is no issue with the probable election of a Turkish Secretary-General of the Organisation,” he said.

He added that, “the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation operates on the basis of the Statutes of the said Organisation.”

“Beyond that, the elections are in June, nominations are still being submitted, and Friday is the last day. There was an exchange of support between Greece and Turkey, and I understand it was agreed when Mr. Dendias visited Turkey because of the earthquakes.

“The potential strengthening of relations between the two countries is something that we will also capitalise on. Everybody realises that the Republic of Cyprus cannot support Turkey’s candidacy, simply because Turkey does not allow ships flying the Cypriot flag to approach its ports.

“It would not be possible on our part to support such a nomination,” Christodoulides concluded.

The Cypriot president was expected to raise the issue of the Turkish embargo on Cyprus-flag ships and cooperation of the two maritime nations during his first meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on March 13, soon after his election.

He told shipping executives during a meeting in Limassol a few days earlier that the importance of Cyprus and Greek shipping is crucial to the EU.

“When we talk about European shipping, in effect, we are talking about Cyprus and Greek shipping. Through joint actions, we need to upscale the priority with which the EU deals with maritime matters.”