Morocco as a maritime nation with a rich IMO history

Morocco as a maritime nation with a rich IMO history
Mark Seddon

The International Maritime Organisation is one of the UN’s oldest agencies, old enough indeed to precede the UN itself. Headquartered on the banks of the River Thames, a clue to the organization’s proud history comes amidst a plethora of model cargo and freight liners in glass cases that line the corridors. It is a small model of the ill-fated Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable passenger liner that famously hit a drifting iceberg and sank within hours in 1912, taking 1,500 passengers and crew with her. This maritime disaster helped give birth to the organization of the same name, dedicated as it was, and is, to maritime safety and security. With over 176 members, including Morocco, the IMO is also given its brief by Member States to chart a more environmentally sustainable approach to shipping and to supporting moves towards greater gender diversity in what has traditionally been very much a male preserve. In the last decade much of the energy of the organization has been directed towards tackling piracy on the high seas and seeking international agreement towards halting it. More recently the IMO has played its part in helping shipping to safely move grain supplies through the Black Sea, which remains a zone of conflict between Russian and Ukraine.  

Membership contributions, paid on an annual basis to the IMO, reflect not the size, wealth and power of any given nation, but are calculated on the tonnage flying under particular flags. It follows therefore that countries such as Panama, the Bahamas and Liberia are large contributors. As are countries such as the UK, whose Overseas Territories such as Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands register a significant amount of shipping.

As a nation with a long Atlantic coastline and long tradition of ship borne trade, Morocco has been increasingly focusing on the maritime economy. This was highlighted by King Mohammed VI during his Green March speech on 6th November, 2023. During that speech, he articulated what he believed should mark a strategic shift towards exploiting what he called the ‘Atlantic façade’; in other words focusing on the importance that Morocco attaches to the Atlantic for complete access to Africa and as a gateway to increased trade with the Americas.  

Morocco had been re-elected, by an overwhelming majority, to the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the period 2022-2023, on the occasion of the 32nd Assembly of IMO, held in London from December 6 to 15. Currently Morocco is a ‘Category (c) Member of the Council’, forming one of the 20 States currently not elected 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.

Playing its role in an international organisation such as the IMO enables Morocco to play its part alongside other Member States from across the World and also allows it to share its ideas, plans and concerns. As such this exercise in multilateralism, where decisions tend to be agreed by consensus, provides a template for how countries can work together.

These similarities and differences are also on display elsewhere amongst shipping exhibits donated by Member States. For in amongst the large models of freight and cargo ships is a beautifully decorated camel saddle. Presented by HM Princess Lalla Joumala, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to the UK. It seems out of place. Until it is explained that actually what this gift is supposed to remind those who look at it, is that ‘camels are the great ships of the desert’.  

*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to MAGHREB INSIDER.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.