Global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has called on the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) to focus on its set goals in the years ahead.
The United Nations (UN) specialised organisation said sustained focus on set objectives was the only way the purpose for which the regional body was formed 40 years ago could be achieved.
IMO Secretary General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, stated this at the recent 35th council meeting and 11th Roundtable of PMAWCA in Lagos.
His words: "I am informed that your Association was established in 1972, and therefore, you are 40 years old this year. IMO congratulates you on this achievement! At 40 years, PMAWCA has entered the age of maturity and looking back, you would learn from your failures and draw good lessons, and then looking forward, you should build on your successes, refocus on your objectives in order to meet the expectations of the members of your Association.
"At 40, PMAWCA would have to think globally while acting regionally and locally to ensure that your work and services would benefit the wider global maritime industry of today and that of the future in the spirit of sustainable development," he added.
Sekimizu, whose address was delivered by the IMO, Head, Africa Anglophone Section, Technical Cooperation Division, Mr. William Azuh, enjoined members of the association to use the Council meeting to deliberate on the new roles and responsibilities expected of ports in the current global maritime dispensation, especially regarding expected increased support responsibilities for maritime safety, security and marine environment protection.
He expressed the global maritime watchdog's readiness to forge partnerships with PMAWCA to provide support for the capacity-building needs of the region.
Sekimizu, who formally took over from his predecessor, Efthimios Mitropoulos, early this year expressed hope that the meeting outcome would contribute to enhanced port efficiency and profitability, effective maritime security, safety, and a clean marine environment.
According to him, by so doing, member nations of the world body would witness what he called "sustainable maritime development" in the context of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
He gave an assurance that IMO would not only deliver on its core mandate but also look beyond it to explore added technical capacity building for a wider shipping industry.
"In this regard, two key instruments are being developed namely, country maritime profiles as tools to help target national effort and resources to the real needs of the countries. As a follow-up to these country maritime profiles, national governments could then develop national maritime transport strategies to direct the effort at meeting the maritime capacity needs of member states.
"As we all agree, in order to develop and enrich these two instruments, your contributions and inputs as port authorities would be important. IMO would, therefore, look forward to cooperating fully with PMAWCA and its other regional sister associations to ensure the successful development and utilization of these important tools", he said.
According to Sekimizu, escalated piracy in the Gulf of Aden, especially off the coast of Somalia and indeed reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships within the Gulf of Guinea, have thrown a strong challenge to the entire maritime world to seek further cooperation and synergy of resources to deal with this scourge.
He revealed that IMO expert assistance to countries of the Gulf of Aden to deal with this problem has resulted in the signing of a regional agreement known as the Djibouti Code of Conduct, mainly to build capacity and share information aimed at controlling, arresting and prosecuting acts of piracy, to ultimately eliminate the scourge.
The IMO Secretary General said his agency was also collaborating with the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) to ensure effective implementation of its flagship Sub-regional Integrated Coastguard Function Network Project, in order to mobilise coordinated regional synergy to combat maritime piracy and other forms of illegal activities at sea against ships and marine resources.
He explained that with current membership of 170 member states, IMO strongly believes in collective effort and achievement through regional cooperation.
"It is against this backdrop that IMO commends PMAWCA for forging ahead over the years in cooperation, for the benefit of the entire international maritime and shipping world. The sea-leg of shipping and transportation begins and ends with seaports.
"With the concept of dry ports and your obligations towards facilitating the maritime trade of landlocked countries, the frontiers and responsibilities of seaports and port authorities have now far extended beyond the waterfront to cover road and rail transportation services and infrastructure", he said.
IMO is a specialised agency of UN with the responsibility for developing global standards with respect to the safe, secure and efficient construction and operation of ships and operation of maritime transportation in an environmentally safe and friendly manner.