Does The IMO ‘Intend’ To Do Nothing At All?

John Konrad
Total Views: 116
September 23, 2020

by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) In the fifteen years of running gCaptain, we have reached out to the International Maritime Organization (IMO),  several times and even traveled to their beautiful London headquarters to stop by (uninvited) and introduce ourselves. We have also offered to help report on their important issues. But we never really hear back from them.

Being a maritime journalist isn’t a glamorous job. We don’t have teams of lawyers protecting us if we make mistakes. We don’t have government salaries or benefits. We certainly don’t have beautiful offices overlooking the Thames. But we do sleep well at night knowing we have done our best to report the facts.

Last week the IMO issued a statement saying “IMO Secretariat has noted with concern recent factually inaccurate reporting in certain media outlets” but did not mention who published factually inaccurate information or reach out to us for corrections. We can’t even be certain they are talking about us except we are only aware of two publications that have been highly critical of the IMO’s response to the MV Wakashio oil spill. gCaptain and Forbes.

Is the IMO, a powerful international governance body with an over $50 million dollar annual budget, using its considerable weight and taxpayer support to bully journalists who make less than $100,000 per year?

And who is making this statement? Who is the “IMO Secretariat” exactly? Is that a person? A horse? A legal body within the IMO? Or is it the body itself? Did member states vote on this statement?  We don’t know but a person familiar with the IMO has informed us that statements like these are typically approved by Fred Kenney, IMO’s Director, Legal and External Affairs… which leads to the question of why the position of external affairs is held by a lawyer rather than a public relations expert?

We can not be certain that the IMO is talking about us be we are certain that the press release and the Wakashio FAQ calling out journalists itself contains multiple accounts of false information. Let’s look at just one. The one that is most obviously wrong.

In the FAQ the IMO writes:

A casualty investigation is mandatory (under the SOLAS, MARPOL and Load Lines treaties) and this should be initiated as soon as possible, in order to understand why the incident occurred and so that IMO can follow up on any recommendations. Casualty investigations fall under the realm of the flag State – in this case, Panama, which has indicated its intention to proceed with an investigation.

So an investigation “should be initiated as soon as possible” but Panama has only “indicated its intention to proceed with an investigation”. The MV Wakashipo ran aground on 25 July 2020 and this press release was issued on the 16 September 2020. That’s fifty three days and still they only “intend” to investigate… they haven’t actually started.  In that period of time a major piece of evidence, THE ENTIRE BOW OF THE SHIP, has been lost to investigators.

And how about the IMO’s mandate to “understand why the incident occurred and so that IMO can follow up on any recommendations”.  Well, that’s not correct either. According to several news reports and a press statement from Intercargo – an organization to which Wakashio’s charterer, MOL, is a member – “During the period 2009-2018, one hundred and 188 lives were lost as a result of 48 bulk carrier losses, however, investigation reports were only made available on the IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System for 27 of these casualties with the average reporting time being 34 months, which, in our strong opinion, is excessively long.”

And what was the IMO’s response to Intercargo’s allegations about the IMO’s “lack of reporting of very serious casualties”? Well here’s the press release headline ““Intercargo applaud the IMO’s intention to improve casualty investigation reporting”.

There’s that word again. Intend. Panama intends to investigate the Wakashio and the IMO intends to investigate why 161 very serious incident investigation reports are missing from its database.

Here is the definition of the word “intention” by Webster:

  1. The action or fact of intending to do a thing ;
  2. A determination to act in a certain way: RESOLVE

I will not say that a huge and powerful international body intended to bully and destroy the reputation of a small independent maritime news organization like gCaptain. No, the IMO’s failure to contact us over the many years, failure to invite us to events, and their failure even once stop by offices to say hello (as we have visited them) proves they don’t place any really IMPORTance or SIGNIFICANCE on us at all. Nor do they have any “determination to act in a certain way” towards gCaptain.

Apparently we are not alone. Nearly a month ago Forbes asked the IMO to comment on four fundamental legal points and, according to Nishan Degnarain, they are still waiting for the IMO to organize an interview.

Better not even to mention our name at all when they have “concerns (about) recent factually inaccurate reporting in certain media outlets.” Despite the fact, this site has hundreds of thousands of social media followers and receives millions of pageviews each month. It’s better just to pretend we don’t exist and instead focus on the 82 non-government special interest groups it does acknowledge… not one of which, by the way, is an organization representing the people best equipped to investigate questionable intentions: journalists.




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