• May 23, 2015


The Minister for Economic Development has responded to a query from the Celtic League in relation to the IOM Shipping Register and International Maritime Organisation Associate Status.

See here for a link to our original query to Mr. Skelly.

A copy of his detailed response is set out in full below:

“Bernard Veen

Thank you for your interest in the position of the Isle of Man in relation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The UK is a member state of the IMO where it represents the interests of the Red Ensign Group of registers which is comprised of the United Kingdom; the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey); and UK Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks & Caicos Islands) which operate shipping registers.

In 2009 the Isle of Man considered applying for associate membership of IMO as your letter correctly points out. Initial formal applications to the UK as member state were refused. However since 2009, the Department has reviewed the situation, taking into account a number of considerations:

Cost: The IMO structure for costs associated with membership and associate membership is calculated using a formula which involves the state’s registered tonnage as a percentage of the world’s total gross registered tonnage. Associate membership is set at 50% of full membership. Since 2009 the Isle of Man has developed its register and its client base and attracted significant new tonnage. Using the IMO calculations, the cost of associate membership (estimated at over £200k per annum) was considered to be excessive when the advantages of associate membership were taken into account.

Representation: The UK has (via the Red Ensign Group conference) provided a commitment to represent the views and issues of its Red Ensign members internationally, which it identifies, may differ from that of the UK and recognises that differences may exist particularly in relation to EU and non-EU states. Since 2009, the Isle of Man Ship Registry has developed an excellent working relationship with the UK MCA and in particular its permanent representative at IMO (PRIMO) and is confident of our views being represented.

UK position: The UK position with thirteen registers under the umbrella of UK representation at IMO is a unique position and one which is difficult to understand for many IMO members and often challenged. Initial talks with the UK MCA indicated that they would not look favourably on any application from one Red Ensign Group member for associate member status of IMO as this could lead to a possible challenge to the status of the UK and the other registers it represents at IMO.

After assessment of the situation, the Department of Economic Development decided in 2011 not to further pursue the application for associate membership of the International Maritime Organization. It will continue to review the situation with regard to our views being represented at IMO.

Lhiuish dy firrinagh

Hon Laurence Skelly MHK
Minister for Economic Development”

Obviously it is for the DED to make a determination on the efficacy or otherwise of Associate Status with the IMO but given that the IOM Shipping Register is one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of recent Manx economic policy it would seem a prudent move.

I accept the Ministers point vis a vis cost, particularly in these austere times, but this needs to be offset against the ability to represent directly rather than via the United Kingdom which may in certain circumstances put its own pecuniary interest first.

It is also interesting that Mr. Skelly says “Initial talks with the UK MCA indicated that they would not look favourably on any application from one Red Ensign Group member for associate member status of IMO” when (see link to our original query above) it was the firm view of the IOM in the discussion with the UK Justice Committee some years ago that this might be a positive step.

Worryingly, it seems that when it wishes the ‘dead hand of Whitehall’ can still apply its will over the interest of the Isle of Man.

It is, however, pleasing that the DED have indicated that the Isle of Man is keeping its options open on the issue of Associate Status.

Some years ago the former Industry Minister, David North MHK, MLC, facilitated a meeting for me (in my capacity as a Union Official) with Dr.Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry who as Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO was instrumental in developing and working with governments and the shipowners’ and seafarers’ organizations to help ensure effective national legal implementation of various Maritime Labour Conventions.

I seem to recall that Dr Doumbia-Henry had a strong view that the Isle of Man should take more of a proactive role in International representation of its Shipping and other interests. Coincidentally, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Maritime University (WMU) have announced the appointment of a Dr Doumbia-Henry to head the WMU..

Finally, can I thank the DED Minister for responding so promptly and fully on this issue. From a Celtic League perspective the issue will not be pursued, however, we will pass the correspondence to the Manx Nationalist Party Mec Vannin in case they wish to take it further.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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