LONDON: Saudi Arabia considers it “a big victory” to be given a seat on the council of the International Maritime Organization, the UN agency responsible for regulating international shipping, the Kingdom’s transport minister told Arab News.
The announcement was made by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim following a vote at the end of the 32nd general assembly of the London-based organization.
The decision was met with applause from the delegates of the IMO’s 175 member states, several of whom embraced Essam Al-Ammari, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the body. He was at the meeting with Mohammed Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Saudi Public Transport Authority.
The UAE was also elected to the council at the same vote.
“We won a seat on the IMO council … It’s a big day for us,” Saudi Arabia’s Transport Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser told Arab News immediately after the vote.
“It’s a big victory. We received votes from around the world and I would like to take this opportunity to thank every country who supported us,” he said.
“We are working with the IMO to help facilitate trade and protect the environment, and are participating in and supporting many of its initiatives,” he added.
Safeguarding the interests of seafarers “who work very hard for the good of everyone” would also be among the main issues the Kingdom would be engaged in as a member of the IMO council, Al-Jasser said.
“Saudi Arabia is transforming its economy, diversifying away from oil and implementing many programs aimed at transforming (it) into a logistics hub, with huge investment in infrastructure and projects to protect the environment,” he added.
Saudi Arabia “has always been very supportive of the IMO and its cause,” the minister said.
“Also, we are working with member countries to explain our programs, explain how we can help and explain our ambitions. That’s why we got the support. And I’m very thankful to every country that voted for us.”
Saudi Arabia, which borders two of the world’s key waterways, has been an active supporter of the IMO since joining in 1969, and participates in meetings of its council, general assembly, committees, subcommittees and working groups. The Kingdom has ratified 40 international conventions and protocols of the IMO.
In September, the organization signed three partnership agreements with Saudi Arabia to support the preparation of a new global project to reduce ship-based emissions. Funding has also been provided for existing projects aimed at reducing biofouling and the dumping of plastics at sea.
The IMO was established by means of a convention adopted under the auspices of the UN in Geneva on March 17, 1948.
PTA chief Al-Rumaih told Arab News that being elected to the IMO council was the “culmination of the efforts of our wise leadership in the development of the maritime transportation sector and the various initiatives announced by the crown prince to protect and maintain the maritime environment.
“This membership will allow Saudi Arabia to continue supporting the organization’s efforts and initiatives and contribute to the development of international laws and regulations that would develop global trade, transport and international shipping,” he added.
“Through its effective role in the IMO, Saudi Arabia will achieve its Vision 2030 and consolidate its position as one of the leading countries in maritime affairs.”
Al-Rumaih said the Kingdom’s national strategy for transport and logistics services would support its ambitions in the maritime sector.
“By 2030, we will handle 41 million containers annually and have procedures to enable goods clearance to be completed in less than two hours,” he said, adding that the Kingdom would also develop its tourism sector to cater for 19 million cruise ship passengers a year.
As a gateway between East and West, Saudi Arabia is a focal point for the 13 percent of global trade that passes through the Red Sea, as well as the 70 percent of the world’s energy supplies that go through the Arabian Gulf, Al-Rumaih said.