Did the US Coast Guard just block an important #MidshipmanX Sexual Assualt And Harassment (SASH) initiative at the IMO? Who are the members of the United State’s IMO delegation? Why are they not listed on the USCG’s IMO webpage? Who is holding them accountable?
by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) This week the US Senate passed a landmark #MeToo Bill to ease workplace lawsuits, but progress seems to be stalled on efforts to support victims of harassment at sea. Who is to blame?
Since the IMO Convention entered into force over 50 years ago, the United States delegation to the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) has played a critical role in all IMO policy development. According to the Navigational Center For Excellence, the U.S. Coast Guard represents the United States at the IMO.
Representation is important for mariners because IMO conventions are supported by hundreds of recommendations that govern every aspect of shipping, including safety, environmental concerns, legal concerns, technical cooperation, maritime security, and shipping efficiency.
This is also important because gCaptain received information from a foreign flag representative of the UN body that the “US Delegation has shot down an important SASH Initiative“. Typically when something like this happens we reach out to our vast network of industry leaders to verify the source but, this time, something unusual happened. Very few of our sources even know the names of the US delegates.
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Just the fact that the US delegation is run by a branch of the US military rather than the civilian US Maritime Administration is unusual. In contrast, the US delegation to the ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization, the aviation equivalent of the IMO – in Montreal is not run by the US Air Force, but rather by a separate group known as the USICAO that “works closely with the FAA and US Department of Transportation.”
Not only is the US delegation part of the US armed forces, which makes information discovery difficult for journalists, but the IMO itself is a veritable black box. When an important initiative gets blocked in the United States journalists can file a Freedom of Information Act request and mariners can call their representative in congress but the IMO doesn’t play by the same rules.
A lack of transparency at the IMO came to a head in October 2020 when several prominent news organizations, including the BBC and Forbes, questioned the IMO’s response to the Wakashio oil spill in Mauritius.
On September 17th, Dr. Gurib-Fakim – a world-leading biodiversity scientist and former President of Mauritius- told the BBC, “Mauritius is still in a State of National Environmental Emergency. Information should be shared for the public records. We are angry and demand transparency from international organizations like the IMO operating in our country. There has still not been a joint press conference with all international organizations operating in Mauritius, and we have been left totally in the dark. This is utterly unacceptable.”
The following month, Nishan Degnarain – former Chairman of Global Agenda Council on Oceans at the World Economic Forum – wrote in Forbes “It is extraordinary that an international United Nations Agency could be ignoring such calls, not meeting with all critical stakeholders in Mauritius, all the while getting fundamental oil spill response steps wrong.”
And this is not just a US Delegation problem. We don’t know if other member countries – including those from the most socially progressive EU nations – are willing to stand in their support of Midshipman X or work to maintain the status quo?
— To be clear the status quo is the unabated and unchecked harassment, assault, and rape of seafarers. —
Most concerning of all…. the US delegation to the IMO has blocked the only SASH initiative ever presented to the IMO. They have blocked it despite promises of better oversight from US Senators, a US Cabinet member, and the USCG Commandant himself. They have blocked it without submitting an alternate plan.
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