The International Maritime Organization’s Council (IMO) has elected Arsenio Antonio Dominguez Velasco from Panama as its secretary-general, the UN shipping agency said on Tuesday.
Dominguez beat six other contenders from China, Turkey, Kenya, Finland, Dominica and Bangladesh in a vote and will take office on January 1, 2024, for a four-year term, subject to the approval of the IMO Assembly.
Dominguez will take the helm at a crucial time as the shipping industry grapples with challenges including pressures to speed up decarbonisation.
A trained naval architect, Dominguez has served as director of the IMO’s marine environment division for just over six years and was previously Panama’s IMO representative, according to his LinkedIn biography. He has also served with Panama’s maritime authority.
Some questioned whether Panama, which is one of the world’s leading shipping registries, should be leading the IMO.
Panama’s maritime authority said in June it would continue to clean up its fleet to prevent substandard Panama-flagged ships from being detained in foreign ports, a week after the country was added to an international watch list.
“Panama’s association with enabling sanctions evasions through the use of its flagged tankers for transporting sanctioned Iranian oil warrants a careful re-evaluation of our maritime choices,” said Claire Jungman, chief of staff at U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks Iranian-related tanker traffic via satellite data.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping association, said the IMO’s top job is “not an easy one.”
“There are undoubtedly challenges ahead as the industry strives to meet the 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets,” Platten said, adding that Dominguez “will lead with equal measures of authority, purpose and compassion.”
The IMO’s current secretary-general Kitack Lim from South Korea has served two terms in the role.