During his recent meeting with the UAE media, H.E. Dr. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Balheif Al Nuaimi, UAE’s Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport, emphasised the UAE’s readiness for its bid to join the Executive Office of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is the body responsible for regulating international shipping. Some may wonder what the UAE will gain by joining IMO’s Executive Office, especially that Egypt and Morocco have been members for more than one session. The UAE enjoys excellent relations with both countries, which ensures they will fully support any maritime issues the UAE wishes to achieve in IMO.
The answer has four main aspects, the most important of which is what HE Dr. Al Nuaimi explained when he was asked this question: "It’s the information. Countries in IMO’s Executive Office have direct and immediate access to new resolutions and draft laws before they are approved. This will enable the UAE to immediately adapt to these laws and prepare our infrastructure in accordance with international standards and laws. A successful economy is a knowledge-based economy, and this is our most important goal.”
Important strategic aspects
Those who are aware of IMO's working system know what the Minister meant in his statement. IMO’s decisions take a long time for approval, voting and ratifying. This gives enough time for those who are aware of the initial draft resolutions to be ready and prepare their maritime facilities to conform to those resolutions. This is significantly reflected on the operation and efficiency of these facilities, as well as the legal procedures related to the environment, safety, dealing with accidents and insurance, and other operational aspects.
The second reason that makes the UAE’s participation in IMO’s decision-making bodies necessary is the country’s national security, which is linked to the marine environment. The UAE overlooks the Arabian Gulf, which it depends on for water desalination and for fishing. The Gulf is a relatively closed sea, but its water is rapidly refreshed due to major currents as is the case with open seas. Protecting the Arabian Gulf’s marine environment is one of the most important aspects of the national security of all the countries that overlook it.
The third reason that drives the UAE to seek to join IMO is its quest to be a major player in the maritime economy. The UAE is strategically located at the heart of international maritime trade routes and has a long and rich history as a global trade hub. Today, the UAE has some of the best and largest ports in the world. The robust air and land shipping sector of the region’s countries supports the competitiveness of the UAE’s marine facilities, making it an integrated land, sea and air logistics centre. Moreover, the UAE is known for its state-of-the-art infrastructure, smart legal and procedural government system and glamorous landmarks, making it one of the best destinations in the world to do business, work and live.
The fourth reason that drives the UAE to join IMO’s Executive Office is the need for a new voice that calls for developing IMO's work and voting mechanisms for issuing and approving international maritime laws. The current voting mechanism combines votes by IMO member countries and the size of the commercial fleets registered in these countries. This system gives remarkable weight for small countries with almost no infrastructure, geographical location or sizable economy. For example, Panama represents 30% of the world’s registered commercial fleet, which gives it a ‘veto’ to determine the fate of all IMO’s decisions, because most of the decisions require a minimum of voting members with certain commercial fleet size. The same is true of Liberia, Seychelles, Malta and the Bahamas.
Attracting international shipping companies
The UAE is looking forward to becoming a regional hub for international shipping companies. Joining IMO’s Executive Office will give the UAE an effective role in the international maritime decision making. The UAE does not only seek to achieve prosperity for its own economy, but rather seeks to find solutions to the problems of shipping companies operating in countries that are far from marine service centres and goods’ distribution facilities, which makes their operations more costly. Moving the operations of these companies to the UAE increases their competitiveness and enhances the confidence of investors and business people.
We are confident that the UAE will achieve its strategic goal to be a global international marine and maritime hub. We are also confident that the UAE will succeed in its bid to join IMO’s Executive Office. We hope that everyone working in the maritime sector in the UAE gives full support to the team entrusted with taking this file to the IMO. This will provide them with prosperity and business opportunities, and more importantly, enables them to pay back this wonderful country, which provided unlimited prospects for everyone to succeed and achieve their aspirations.