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Transparency International: ‘Weak governance’ at IMO

04 Apr 2018

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is at risk of unresolved conflicts of interest due to shortcomings in its governance, suggests a study from Berlin-based independent anti-corruption organisation Transparency International.

It noted the possibility of private shipping-industry concerns having undue influence over the policymaking process at the IMO.

The development could undermine the UN agency’s ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from maritime trade.

The study, to be fully released in May, evaluates three dimensions of the IMO’s governance structure: Transparency, accountability and integrity. A summary report is as follows:

  • Journalists indicate that they are unable to report freely on IMO meetings. Non-profit organisations with consultative membership of the IMO can face expulsion if they criticise the agency or report on country views, for example.
  • The majority of the world’s commercial fleet (52 per cent) is registered in only five states – Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas – many of which are known as tax havens for ships. Together, these five states contribute 43.5 per cent of the total funding from the IMO’s 170 member states. These countries potentially have exaggerated weight in the IMO policymaking processes, particularly when no mechanism exists to protect against undue influence.
  • Governments are able to appoint employees of corporations, including shipping companies, to their delegations, and they have dominated some delegations. These private-sector delegates can determine their government’s position on IMO policy and are not subject to conflict of interest rules nor to a code of conduct.

The report however notes that even in the absence of a comprehensive access to information policy, transparency about the IMO’s administration is high, and that information about the remit, powers and rules of procedure of its assembly, council and committees is easily accessible. The IMO itself is not responsible for who member states appoint to their delegations.

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997,” said Brice Böhmer, coordinator of the Climate Governance Integrity Program at Transparency International.

“However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy, due in 2018, and a revised strategy, due only in 2023.

“A well-functioning organisation’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggests that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies.”

Transparency International urges the IMO to establish a stronger governance framework.

“There should be no delay on action to combat climate change,” it says.

“The Intersessional Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships meeting in London today should set ambitious targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and begin taking measurable action now.”

Photo credit: International Maritime Organisation
Published: 4 April, 2018


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