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Arsenio Dominguez wins vote to become next IMO secretary-general

Panama secures 21 votes in fourth round to defeat candidates from Finland and Türkiye for the top diplomatic job in shipping

‘I’m not afraid of disturbing things a little bit to actually get change,’ says Arsenio Dominguez, who is currently the director of the IMO’s marine environment division

ARSENIO Dominguez, the candidate from Panama, has been elected as secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization after voting today went to a fourth round.

Dominguez, 52, who works at the secretariat as director of the marine environment division, was one of six candidates standing for the top diplomatic job in shipping.

“I'm not afraid of disturbing things a little bit to actually get change,” he said in an interview immediately after his election.

The three female candidates, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry (Dominica), Nancy Karigithu (Kenya), and Minna Kivimäki (Finland), were eliminated in the first, second and final rounds respectively.

A seventh candidate, Moin Ahmed from Bangladesh, withdrew in the opening moments of the council vote this morning.

Before the vote, Dominguez told delegates that he was “ready to start delivering from the first day” and “in me you are voting for the right secretary-general for right now”.



Panama secured 11 votes in the first round, followed by Turkey with 10 votes from the 40-member IMO Council, with Dominica’s candidate Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry eliminated.

Dominguez then picked up Dominica’s three votes and another from Kenya in the second round to secure 15, which saw Karigithu eliminated with four votes.

Kenya’s votes were then split between Panama and Finland, and China (Zhang Xiaojie), with five votes, was removed in the third round.

The final vote was Dominguez with 21, Finland with eight and Türkiye’s candidate with 11.

Dominguez who has a degree as a naval architect, has been at the secretariat for more than a decade and began his maritime career working in a ship repair yard in Panama.

He moved to London in 1998 and represented Panama at the IMO, in addition to work for a division of the Panama Maritime Authority.

Immediately after the election concluded around lunchtime, Dominguez said that coming from a country with the world’s largest flag registry was one of the weaknesses of his campaign.

“The constant comments and criticisms were that IMO has too much influence from the industry.

“I always worked on reiterating (during) my campaign is my impartiality, and transparency,” he said.

Dominguez aimed to make the IMO more outward looking, promising to “bring solutions from day one”.

“Our communication is not reaching out to the right people, or we're not communicating properly … and we get to defensive, and we need to take on board that sometimes the criticism is valid, and we actually have to act upon it,” he said.

Part of Panama’s pitch was Dominguez success as director of the marine environment division in helping the 175 member states find consensus to agree a revised greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategy at the IMO two weeks ago.

His four-year appointment begins on January 1, with the winner to succeed the incumbent over the past eight years, South Korea’s Kitack Lim.

The IMO must take critical decisions over the next four years, amid heavy criticism that the pace of decarbonisation regulation will compromise the United Nations agency’s role as an international regulator.

The secretary-general will not only set the tone at the secretariat, but as the public face of the IMO, he must bridge divisions and steer a course that will keep the IMO relevant and respected.

As most secretary-generals are re-elected for a second term, the successful candidate will take the IMO through key climate change regulations in shipping and other challenges, such as autonomous shipping, a looming seafarer shortfall, as well as digitalisation and other internal reorganisations.


Listen to Lloyd's List's interview with Arsenio Dominguez here:

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