Antonio Dominguez Velasco has become the 10th Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization since 1959 chosen through secret ballot by the members of the IMO.
The 52-year-old candidate from Panama, the world’s largest ship registry and home to one of the crucial maritime routes, the Panama Canal, succeeds South Korea’s Kitack Lim triumphing over 6 other candidates vying for the top diplomatic role in the shipping and maritime industry.
Seven candidates were initially considered for the position, including three women – Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry (Dominica), Nancy Karigithu (Kenya), and Minna Kivimäki (Finland).
Ironically, although the IMO has been advocating for gender parity, diversity, and empowerment of women in the maritime and shipping sector there is a noted absence of women in the organization’s leadership as all 3 women candidates lost out in the first, second, and final rounds of voting, respectively.
Who is Antonio Dominguez Valesco?
Mr.Dominguez who presently serves as the director of the marine environment division at the IMO secretariat, expressed his readiness for disruption and change after his victory.
With a naval architect degree and over a decade-long stint at the secretariat, Dominguez brings valuable expertise to the table having begun his maritime career in a ship repair yard in Panama and later representing the country at the IMO and working for the Panama Maritime Authority’s division.
As a representative of the world’s largest ship registry, Dominguez acknowledges industry influence on the IMO as one of his campaign weaknesses while underlining his impartiality and transparency throughout his campaign.
Dominguez intends to transform the IMO to be more outward-looking and to ensure that its communications reach the right stakeholders and it is hoped that his tenure will focus on addressing critical feedback and enacting necessary changes.
A significant achievement from Dominguez’s stint as the director of the marine environment division was assisting the 175 member states in finding consensus on revising the greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy. This success was part of Panama’s pitch for Dominguez’s candidacy.
Challenges for the new IMO Secretary General
The new secretary-general’s four-year appointment begins on January 1, 2024, and his role will be vital in making critical decisions over the next few years. Amid heavy criticism regarding the pace of decarbonization regulation, Dominguez will need to bridge divisions, keep the IMO relevant, and manage the public image of the organization.
Challenges looming on the horizon include key climate change regulations in shipping, potential seafarer shortfall, digitalization, internal reorganization, and the advent of autonomous shipping. Yet, the industry is hopeful and looks forward to working with Dominguez, who is expected to lead with equal measures of authority, purpose, and compassion.
This appointment is subject to approval at the 33rd session of the Assembly of IMO in late 2023. The decision to elect Dominguez came less than two weeks after the IMO agreed on a revised strategy to decarbonize the global shipping industry. Countries agreed on reducing emissions by at least 20% by 2030, striving for 30%, and by at least 70%, striving for 80%, by 2040, reaching net-zero close to 2050.