Mr. Kitack Lim, IMO Scribe

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has made a strong case for an increment in Africa’s tonnage and development of other shipbuilding and marine infrastructure to increase the continent’s participation in global shipping activities.

Secretary General of the organisation, an agency of the United Nation Mr. Kitack Lim, who presented a goodwill message at the just concluded third edition of the Association of African Maritime Administrations AAMA, held in Abuja, spoke against the backdrop of global trade statistics released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD.

The Secretary General, Who was represented by the head, Africa (Anglophone) Section Technical Cooperation Division of the IMO, Mr. William Azuh, cited the 2016 UNCTAD review of maritime transport, which indicates that out of the 35 top ship-owning countries in the world, which also make up about 95 per cent of world ship tonnage, none is an African country.

The UNCTAD review also says that in the share of vessel ownership by country grouping, developing countries in Africa own only 1.23 per cent while their counterparts in Asia own 36.24 per cent.

Similarly, reports from other sources indicate that Africa represents only 0.9 per cent of shipbuilding yards and marine equipment industries.

The IMO scribe however observed that African continent needs to increase its level of vessel tonnage as well as develop the much needed maritime infrastructure, especially in terms of ship building and equipment to be able to effectively participate in the global shipping trade to the benefits of its citizenry.

He charged leadership of the association and indeed member states of the association to begin to develop the framework that would enable them take full advantage of the vast maritime potential embedded in the continent.

Lim however warned that in trying to build indigenous tonnages, the governments of the various countries should endeavour to ensure that the past mistakes that led to the liquidation of the national shipping lines of many African countries, which range from government interference in the daily running of the lines, corruption and nepotism do not occur again.

He said: “I however believe that the leadership of AAMA and indeed your home governments will, when considering such statistics, seriously take into account the history of the national shipping lines and the reasons for their demise”.

“The very high level of risk which investing in the shipping industry entails; and the benefits for the wider public which can be realised if the funds were to be spent towards achieving national sustainable development priorities”.

“I would like you all to reflect on the current position of Africa vis-à-vis some important statistics in global shipping. I believe that such reflections would provide additional impetus to discussions on the development of maritime trade in Africa”

While commenting on the formation of AAMA, he observed that the association is a direct response to, and in harmony with both the words and the spirit of the revised African Maritime Transport Charter, adding that at an extraordinary session of the Assembly of African Heads of State and Government held in October 2016, in Lomé, Togo, adopted a Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa.

He also observed that the AAMA conference therefore provides a platform for commitments to taking measurable actions to promote Africa’s-wide development of a sustainable blue economy, underpinned by good maritime security and efficient maritime law enforcement.

While commending the association on the choice of theme of this year’s conference, which is ‘Sustainable Use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas’, he noted that the world’s oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 80 per cent of global trade.

He therefore pledged that the IMO continually work provide both the regulatory and technical cooperation and capacity building in addition to making a significant contribution to the global efforts to combat the degradation and over-exploitation of the marine environment. It was gathered that this commitment informed the choice of the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day celebration, which is ‘Connecting ships, ports and people’.