The Minister of Transport of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Fikile Mbalula, has today lauded the outcomes of the Council elections of the 32nd International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Assembly as fair, transparent and without prejudice. The elections took place last week where South Africa lost its membership of the IMO Council seat, which it has held since 1997.

The Minister equated the IMO elections to that of South Africa’s first democratic national elections in 1994 – where the late President Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected SA State President -“the best States won, fair and square”, he quipped.

“’This loss presents an opportunity for South Africa to go back to the drawing board and regroup with the aim of coming back with a vigorous and a revamped campaign that will ensure that South Africa reclaim its rightful place in the IMO – as well as attain its ambition of becoming an international maritime centre by 2030’’, he retorted.

At the 32nd IMO Assembly, South Africa was virtually represented by the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga. She was supported by Ms Nomatemba Tambo who is the High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Kingdom and the IMO respectively. They were both joined by Mr Sipho Mbatha, the Alternate Permanent Representative of South Africa to the IMO.

South Africa has been the member of the IMO Council since 1997 following her re-admission to the Organization after many years of isolation from participating in the United Nations and its specialised agencies.

The Country has a strong and rich history with the IMO. Between 2005 and 2015, South Africa was consecutively affirmed as Vice Chair of the IMO Council. In 2009, South Africa also hosted the Diplomatic conference that adopted the Cape Town Agreement on the safety of fishing vessels as part of promoting the coming into effect of the Torremolinos Convention. That was in addition to active participation in many of the IMO activities globally and at regional level.

Following the loss of the Country’s IMO status, Minister Mbalula has made a clarion call to all maritime stakeholders to put shoulders to the wheel and build a formidable campaign that will reclaim South Africa’s IMO status without any further delay. He has also emphasized that South Africa must dedicate resources to enhance performance of the Maritime Value Chain. As part of this improvement, South Africa also has a string of maritime bills soon to be tabled in Parliament. These bills include the much-awaited Merchant Shipping Bill; the Marine Pollution Prevention Amendment Bill as well as the Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response Bill.

The Minister thanked all IMO Member States for the confidence bestowed on South Africa for all these years when it was part of the Council. He further reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to the IMO; that the Country will do all she can to give effect to the IMO instruments with the urgency they deserve.