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IMO’s new chief highlights seafarer safety amid strategic priorities

IMO’s new chief highlights seafarer safety amid strategic priorities
Noah Bovenizer February 1, 2024

The new Secretary General said the safety of seafarers must be a priority in the navigation of ongoing conflict in regions such as the Red Sea.

The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) new Secretary General Arsenio Dominguez has outlined his top priorities for the year ahead, focussing on seafarer safety and continuing the environmental progress made by the GHG targets agreed in 2023.

Speaking at the IMO headquarters in London, UK, Dominguez, whose appointment was confirmed during the UN organisation’s 33rd Assembly in December 2023, outlined his strategic priorities for the beginning of his tenure including: Safety, Support for Member States, People, and the IMO’s regulatory work.

The secretary general, the IMO’s youngest ever at 53, also stressed the importance of seafarers and their safety to the work of the organisation, especially during the 50th anniversary of the Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) convention, admitting it was an “unprecedented” time but describing the maritime industry as “resilient”.

He referenced events such as the tense situation in the Red Sea, describing maritime workers as “innocent victims” in the ongoing conflict in the region and highlighting their essential role in the industry with the phrase “no seafarers, no shipping, no shopping”.

Dominguez discussed a report ( released in January by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF) that found vessel abandonments, when operators stop communicating with or paying seafarers, were up 10% in 2023 compared to 2022.

Outlining the IMO’s efforts to address the issue, he told Ship Technology that the problem was permanently on the organisation’s agenda and its collaborations with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the ITWF.

He said that the IMO would use those partnerships “to start addressing all those cases of abandonment, and reaching out to different member states, and their authorities, and having those difficult conversations whenever it is required.”

Continuing: “Part of it also is the work that the legal committee is starting on ship registrations and how we can better align the responsibilities of the different parties, of the organisation, in order to implement the regulations in avoid the abandonment of seafarers together with the ILO.”

When asked about the issue of a seemingly impending issue with seafarer shortage as the maritime industry begins to need employees with the technical knowledge required to work with more sustainable fuels and technology, Dominguez said the IMO was creating an international task force to work on the issue alongside conducting a study on how to attract seafarers to the sector.

Touching on the organisation’s environmental efforts, Dominguez praised the adoption of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions strategy, which outlined interim targets for the industry’s ambition to achieve net zero by 2050, in July last year.

The IMO chief said the strategy showed that the IMO was still able to bring its 175 member states together despite international conflicts and said the ability to address concerns about its effectiveness were built in with a commitment to continue looking at the strategy as new information about the effect of shipping on the climate came to light.