Koji Sekimizu of Japan is new IMO Secretary General

Commo. Carlos L. Agustin AFP (ret)Mr. Koji Sekimizu of Japan, who is currently Director of IMO’s Maritime Safety Division has been elected as the Secretary- General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for a 4-year term effective 1 January 2012. Sekimizu edged out five other candidates, including our own Neil Frank Ferrer and the nominees of the Re- public of Korea, Spain, USA and Cyprus.

The vote took place during the 106th session of the IMO Council (of 40 members), from 27 June to 1 July 2011. The decision of the Council will be submitted for approval to the 169-member IMO Assembly’s 27th session, which meets from 21 to 30 November 2011.

Mr. Koji Sekimizu becomes IMO Secretary- General following a pattern initially set by his predecessor, Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, who expressed his best wishes, looking for- ward to “working closely with Mr. Sekimizu between now and the end of the year to intro- duce him to the current state of organizational affairs so that the transition of administration from me to him will be as smooth, harmonious and successful as possible.”

The IMO website gives the following back- ground on him: Mr. Sekimizu studied marine engineering and naval architecture and joined the Ministry of Transport of Japan in 1977, working initially as a ship inspector and moving on to senior positions in both maritime safety and environment related positions within the Ministry. He began attending IMO meetings as part of the Japanese delegation in 1980 and joined the IMO Secretariat in 1989, initially as Technical Officer, Sub-Division for Technology, Maritime Safety Division, becoming Head, Technology Section in 1992, then moving to become Senior Deputy Director, Marine Environment Division in 1997 and Director of that Division in 2000, before moving to his current position in 2004.

I also started attending IMO meetings (about twice a year) in 1980 until 1985 when I was posted at Defense Attaché in Washington so I might have met Sekimizu during any of those meetings, usually of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), Technical Cooperation Committee (TC) and Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC), and later from 1990 to 1993, Council and Assembly meetings.

Prior to his winning the nod for the coveted IMO position, Sekimizu had made known his intentions if appointed as the next Secretary- General of IMO to, in his own words, en- courage Governments, the shipping industry and the wider maritime community as a whole to consider the future of the shipping and maritime industries and generate together a new concept of “Sustainable Maritime Development”. In Sekimizu’s view, it should include: “at least the following key fields of operation”:

  • Global Standards (GS) for shipping at IMO covering safety, environmental protection, security and facilitation;
  • Energy Efficiency (EE) covering technical and operational measures for efficient fuel consumption based on the basic recognition that fossil energy resources are not infinite and every effort must be made to save energy resources;
  • New Technology (NT) for safety, environmental protection, security, clean energy and efficient operation of shipping to meet the present and future challenges;
  • Education and Training (ET) to ensure a continuous supply of quality seafarers and maritime experts required for all aspects of maritime industries including shipbuilding and maritime equipment manufacturing industries;
  • Maritime Security (MS) covering application of international measures for maritime security, anti-piracy measures, law enforcement mechanisms for maritime zone security and the supply chain security;
  • Maritime Traffic Management (MTM) in straits and sea areas of significant importance covering co-operative mechanisms of littoral States, public-private partner- ship for future systems and realization of the Marine Electronic Highways;
  • Maritime Infrastructure (MI), including aids to Navigation, Search and Rescue, port facilities and technical cooperation to ensure availability of proper maritime infrastructure in all parts of the world.

No doubt no one can quarrel with the seven measures which make up Sekimizu’s “pre-appointment platform”. However I would have liked to see his expanded view on Technical Cooperation. More and more modernization equipage puts tremendous burden on developing countries, and the only way to really ensure high standard n their case is to provide better technical cooperation means, particularly technical and material assistance to developing countries, through UNDP, through government assistance, or through government encouragement for the private sector to assist, such as what Japan had done before with respect to MARPOL equipment sup- port to ASEAN, and in supporting scholars from developing countries to attend courses at the World Maritime University (WMU) at Malmo.

Technical Cooperation through government loans however could disadvantage developing countries as things could go haywire in corrupt environments. Some examples in maritime transport and communications in the Philippines that became quite controversial including many others:

  • The Maritime Communications Project (MCP-1) with Japan in 1985-87;
  • Radar systems acquisition (stopped due to controversial charges) in 1998-99 with the UK;
  • The so-called “Broadband project” (NBN deal) with China;
  • The French “modular ports” project;
  • The DOTC lighthouse equipment procurement project.

The last three are matters currently being looked into by the Department of Justice and Congress involving corruption of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the former First Gentleman, Miguel Arroyo. They represent examples of what the Philippine Daily Inquirer calls as “the rampant corruption in the DOTC during the Arroyo administration.”

I had a memorable anecdotal experience on no.  1 above. The MCP Phase 1 was initiated during the Cory Aquino administration with no doubt very good intentions. During a meeting at the MARINA presided by then DOTC USEC Josie Lichauco in 1997, I (then PPA General Manager) criticized the project and two of my co-conferees (then MARINA Administrator Pio Garrido and then PISA President Ting Bengson) agreed with me. The three of us got a tongue lashing from Josie, one bureaucrat we all respected and know was always above- board. Later in late 1997 transceiver units for MCP1 were delivered at the PPA Head Office and the PCG Headquarters next door. As far as I recall, they were not useful at all. I thought then that heads should really roll, but I really wondered who was behind all that? I considered it one of the early examples of “dealer driven” procurement. In spite of all this, I still believe that Josie Lichauco (and likewise for Pres. Cory Aquino) was merely ill-advised. Had she, a high profile leader against the Estrada administration during EDSA II, instead been Secretary of DOTC, I’m sure she would have also joined the Hyatt 10.

As Koji Sekimizu himself has stated, maritime transport is fundamentally important for sustainable development and the world economy. Maritime transport is international in all aspects and not just the shipping industry and composed of various players and stake- holders including the shipbuilding industry, maritime equipment manufacturing industry, finance and insurance industries, classification societies, ship owners, seafarers, shippers, trade industry, oil and energy industries, ports, navigation infrastructures, maritime administrations, port State authorities, coast guards, Governments and international organizations. In the preparation of the concept of “Sustainable Maritime Development”, all these stakeholders should be involved and their views should be reflected in the concept. I hope that this suggestion towards the formation of the concept of the Sustainable Mari- time Development will generate active discussion on the role of shipping in the world economy and sustainable development and will provide substantial contribution in the process towards UNCSD (Rio+20) next year. I wish Mr Koji Sekimizu good luck, fair winds and following seas in the years to come.