Bangladesh once again lost in the election of the governing council of the United Nations' shipping regulator International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for 2021, missing its active representation in the executive council.
The assembly of the IMO has elected 40 countries in three categories in its Council for the 2022-2023 biennium held on 6-15 December at its London headquarters.
Bangladesh vied for Category C slots set for countries that 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.
The IMO has 175 member states.
The 10 category A countries with major interest in providing international shipping services include China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The 10 category B states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade are Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.
The 20category C states 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 are the Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Vanuatu.
Bangladesh had a seat in the B—category (States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade).
The IMO Council from 2001 to 2017 was very helpful for Bangladesh to actively take part in making recommendations to governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention. After losing the post in a 2017 election, the country did not take part in the 2019 elections.
The seat is very important for countries that have national maritime profiles and shipping interests such as ship operations, ship recycling, and shipbuilding, promotion of seafaring, maritime safety, security, and marine environmental protection.
"Being away from the IMO council will not only be detrimental to our national interest, rather we will be lacking international shipping business.
We also will not be able to keep pace with the development of a Blue Economy which is one of the priorities of our government," said Captain Anam Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officer's Association (BMMOA).
After losing in 2017, Bangladesh refrained from participating in elections for IMO Council membership in 2019.
Experts attributed lack of proper leadership and timely action for the defeat of Bangladesh to secure its position in the IMO council.
In June this year when Bangladesh did not declare a candidate with 2021 elections approaching, the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officer's Association sent a letter to the State Minister of Shipping expressing their concern.
"If Bangladesh continuously remains out of the scene by refraining from efforts to re-enter the council, it will not be good for our national maritime interests at all."
The BMMOA also said in their letter, "A country with shipping interests such as ship registration, ship operation, shipbuilding, ship recycling, seafaring, etc has never given up a council seat, that not only helps enhancement of a nation's maritime profile but also provides many intangible benefits that include negotiating power."
Contacted, shipping secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, told TBS that Bangladesh has created a post of Maritime Counselor at the Bangladesh embassy in London to represent Bangladesh at the IMO and help work closely with the organisation.
About the elections he said, "This year we did good in the election compared to the last elections. We hope we will do better in future."