THE INTERNATIONAL Maritime Organization is opening a regional office in Fiji to serve Pacific member states, including Australia and New Zealand.

The Suva office would be the IMO’s seventh regional presence office, in addition to offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago and Egypt.

IMO secretary-general Arsenio Dominguez and Fiji’s minister for transport Ro Filipe Tuisawau signed a memorandum of understanding at IMO headquarters in London on 18 March.

The new regional office, headed by a regional co-ordinator, would aim to support the maritime needs of countries in the Pacific Islands region, to align IMO actions with national and regional development policies.

It would also advise on maritime issues such as training, safety and security, legislation and marine environment.

The IMO said Pacific Island governments had highlighted the need for more maritime opportunities, especially for young people. Certification for seafarers and wider employment prospects were among their priorities.

Mr Dominguez said setting up a new office was an opportunity for the IMO to enhance its ability to work in step with the Pacific region and member states.

“In addition to Fiji as host country, I would like to thank the governments of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands for their generous financial and in-kind support which has helped make this collaboration a reality,” he said.

There are 14 IMO member states in the region, including Australia and NZ. The other 12 countries are considered small island developing states, and three of them are categorised as least developed countries.

“The IMO Pacific Regional Presence Office provides an opportunity to address critical issues, including the challenge of providing an efficient interisland shipping service, to ensure the safety of our Pacific people in inter-island shipping,” Mr Tuisawau said.

“As host of this regional office, Pacific Member States will be assisted in addressing global standards for ships, and compliance issues related to energy efficiency, safety equipment and maintenance of safety systems according to IMO standards.” 

Elsewhere in the world, the IMO office in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire serves West and Central Africa; the office in Accra, Ghana serves West and Central Africa; and an office in Nairobi, Kenya covers Eastern and Southern Africa.

The IMO office in Manila, the Philippines covers East Asia; an office in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago serves the Caribbean; and the office in Alexandria, Egypt serves the Middle East and North Africa.