Ph loses bid for IMO Sec Gen

Adm Maximo Mejia JrIt was a heartbreaking moment, losing out in a hotly-contested election for Secretary General of the London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO) last June 30, 2015 in London. The drama started in Philippine media when it was reported that Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) administrator Maximo Q Mejia Jr was among six people hoping to become the International Maritime Organization’s next secretary-general.

The IMO released the names of the six candidates on 1 April.

Aside from Mejia, the other five candidates were Cyprus’ acting director of the Department of Merchant Shipping, Andreas Chrysostomou; Danish Maritime Authority’s director-general, Andreas Nordseth; Russia’s deputy director of the Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport, VitalyKlyuev; South Korea’s Ki-Tack Lim, the president of the Port of Busan Authority; and Kenya’s IMO representative, Juvenal Shiundu.

The new secretary-general would be chosen at the 114th session of the 40-Member strong IMO Council, which was to meet from 29 June to 3 July and the council’s decision will be submitted to the IMO Assembly, which meets for its 29th session from 23 November to 2 December, 2015 for its approval.

In a posting I made before the Maritime Forum on 5 April 2015, I announced Mejia’s candidacy and stated we have a good chance as we can get ASEAN, India and South Asian countries, the Arab League, the US, Canada, Australia, NZ and the Americas but that needs considerable diplomatic backchanneling work, especially during the COUNCIL meetings.

Kaya natin ‘to!

This was noted by our former IMO deputy representative in London until 2010, former DFA Ocean Concerns Office Chief and now Deputy Chief of Mission in Tokyo Gilbert Asuque, who agreed with my notion and further commented:

Thank you for your email. I discussed with Administrator Mejia the campaign strategy for the IMO SG when he was in Tokyo last month. Maybe this issue could be included in the agenda of the next Maritime League meeting. Adm. Mejia will need 21 votes, including the Philippines, from the 40 members of the Council. Perhaps the members of the Maritime League can communicate with their contacts for the 20 IMO Council members, excluding Cyrpus, Denmark, Russia, South Korea and Kenya, to speak with their governments to support the PH candidate. It will be recalled that IMO SG Sekimizu won the post by 23 votes from the IMO Council. With 21 or 22 votes including ours, the PH may make it.

Mejia, whom I publicly declared during our 101st Maritime Forum at the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) and during the 102nd at MARINA as “the most qualified and experienced” among the candidates, was certainly not wanting in strategizing and proselytizing for supporters. He even coined the name “Max-IMO Mejia” for the campaign, which we found quite apropos, and even had a web site for that campaign. His 8-minute speech was impressive and to the point.

I saw our chances with the 40 Council members as follows:

  • Group A: 10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services:China, Greece, Italy, JAPAN, NORWAY, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, UNITED KINGDOM, UNITED STATES.
  • Group B: 10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade: ARGENTINA, BANGLADESH, BRAZIL, CANADA, France, Germany, INDIA, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden.
  • Group C: 20 States not elected under (a) or (b) above, which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world: AUSTRALIA, BAHAMAS, Belgium, CHILE, Cyprus, Denmark, INDONESIA, JAMAICA, Kenya, LIBERIA, MALAYSIA, Malta, MEXICO, MOROCCO, PERU, PHILIPPINES, SINGAPORE, SOUTH AFRICA, THAILAND, TURKEY.

Those in capital letters, I thought could obviously be won based on various factors and considering the same for the 5 other candidates, particularly qualification of the candidate. However, as we all learned, there were many factors to be considered that have no bearing on individual expertise of the candidate or regional affiliations of the country. Economic power, as in many other areas of competition, isquite a strong asset in a UN election as well

The Current secretary-general Koji Sekimizu will end his four-year term on 31 December of which I wrote in the Nov-Dec 2010 issue of the Maritime Review. From the accolades received from many delegations after the election, Sekimizu had a successful and impressive tenure. He could have won an easy reelection had he not opted out for personal reasons, a decision he announced in December 2014.

We wish Max-IMO Mejia all the best. He was passionate and relentless in his candidature; he was generous and extremely civil in defeat, expressed so gracefully in his speech immediately after his loss.

As most of us said after the election, IMO’s loss is MARINA’s gain!