Flag of Palau (Background photo created by www.slon.pics - www.freepik.com)

Palau successfully underwent the IMO Member State Audit Scheme from 25-27 November, 2019 in Athens, Greece for Palau’s Flag State obligations and 9-14 December, 2019 in Koror for Palau’s Port State and Coastal State obligations. This was an extensive compliance audit that required many months of careful preparations, and involved the Office of the President, the National Congress (OEK) and 12 government agencies namely, Ministry of MPIIC, Bureau of Marine Transportation, Bureau of Maritime Security and Wildlife Protection, EQPB, NEMO, National Weather Service, PALARIS, Ministry of Justice, PPUC, Division of Criminal Investigation, and Bureau of Communications.

In 2013, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 28th General Assembly passed Resolution A. 1087 (28), mandating that all Member States undergo an audit regarding their compliance with nine (9) IMO mandatory instruments, as well as their effectiveness in implementing these instruments’ objectives. The main purpose of the audit would be to assist Member States in identifying their weaknesses in implementing IMO mandatory instruments and providing a clear way forward in closing such gaps, thereby improving their maritime administrations.  The audit is not, and is not intended to be, a graded test.  Indeed, to this day, no state has come out of the audit with absolutely no findings at all (not even the most developed IMO member states).  Moreover, audit reports are strictly confidential, unless released by member states.

On January 9, 2019 MPIIC Minister Charles Obichang signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim, committing Palau’s participation in the audit. In accordance with the Memorandum, Minister Obichang appointed Palau’s Permanent Representative to the IMO Steven Kanai, to serve as the IMSAS Single Point of Contact (SPC) for Palau.

Mr. Kanai, as the Single Point of Contact (SPC) for Palau, was the lead of Palau’s delegation to Athens and in Koror.  It was his role to oversee and facilitate the smooth conduct of the audit, and ensure that all necessary arrangements were made, including availability of personnel and documents under review.  In Athens for the first phase of the audit, he was accompanied by Acting Director Hayes Moses of Marine Transportation Bureau, who oversees the operations of the PISR, Legal Counsel Daniel Mandell, who provided legal assistance (interpretation of laws and regulations in relation to implementation of IMO mandatory instruments); and Chief of Staff Secilil Eldebechel, at the invitation of PISR, to underscore the Palau Government’s considerable regard for the audit and for first-hand observation of PISR’s conduct, including the gauging of its performance as revealed by the audit.

Overall, the audit of Palau in Athens and Koror went very smoothly.  All necessary logistical arrangements, documents, and personnel involved in the audit review were in place and available; even the audit timetable was perfect.  This outcome was the result of many months of careful preparations by the Palau Team, PISR included, in collaboration with PPRIMO/SPC Kanai and Acting Director Hayes Moses.

As expected, there were findings made, which are common to small member states that lack ample expertise and resources, and still largely in developing stage of their maritime capacity building.  Indeed, the Audit Team Leader, Mr. Prasad Panicker, spoke positively about PISR at the conclusion of the first phase of the audit, saying that PISR, “for a relatively new organization–is moving in the right direction, and just needs a little fine tuning.”

“The audit served us well as a tool, to help us understand our weaknesses, and provide us clear direction toward a stronger maritime administration,” said Mr. Kanai