Cyprus opts out of IMO top post

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Cyprus has opted to stay out of the running for the top post at the world shipping body, with seven candidates put forward by their host countries, in what could be a trans-continental race.

Already, the challengers from Finland and China seem to be the front runners for Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation when incumbent Kitack Lim steps down at the end of the year.

Minna Kivimäki (photo) is Finland’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the only European candidate.

China’s Xiaojie Zhang is the Director of the Technical Cooperation Division at the IMO.

Two other candidates from Panama and Kenya are also high-ranking officials from within the IMO, 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 have also submitted names, with the Caribbean state proposing World Maritime University president Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry and Dhaka putting forward Moin Uddin Ahmed.

Cyprus ‘could have’ bid for the IMO post, the former Deputy Shipping Minister Vassilis Demetriades said in a social media post this week.

But 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.

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

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.

Cyprus is seeking re-election in Category C of the IMO Council, reserved for 20 members with special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas.

Support

With at least 21 candidate nations put forward, an election is inevitable.

Cyprus will need all the support it can get to retain its seat and have a say in maritime policy decisions.

Raising concerns that a Turkish Secretary-General of the IMO would harm the Cyprus shipping sector, President Nikos Christodoulides said, “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 added, “the Secretary-General [of the IMO] operates based on the Statutes of the said Organisation.”

“Several European members sounded me out due to the lack of any other European candidate,” Demetriades told the Financial Mirror last week before Finland’s candidate was announced.

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

“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.”

However, he said that despite efforts made a long time ago, it was not possible to convene a meeting for his point of view to be heard and to evaluate a Cypriot candidacy.

He claimed his request fell on deaf ears, to which Christodoulides reacted by saying that his cooperation and friendship with Demetriades stretched back many years.

“My analysis beyond the prospect of electability would also include the importance of having a Cypriot candidacy on the table, with its pros and cons, and would have been heard before Greece announced its intentions,” Demetriades had said.

The President said if there was any prospect of a Cypriot candidate’s commendable challenge, “there is no reason why we would not do it.”

This also put an end to talk about whether Demetriades’ was sidelined because he endorsed another politician during the February presidential elections.