The announcement by the Liberia Shipping and Corporate Registry (LISCR) expressing opposition to the European Union (EU’s) proposal calling for the implementation of a separate but unilateral set of regulations Emissions Trading System Scheme (ETS) for international shipping has raised eyebrows and many questions about the LISCR operations which is virtually shrouded in secrecy.
But more importantly, it has raised the question of sovereignty because, as far as can be determined, matters having to do with the environment fall squarely within the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a legitimate national institution and certainly not a corporate body.
Alfonso Castillero, Chief Operating Officer of the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR), says: “We understand the need for efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and continue to push for a cleaner environment, as well as a more efficient maritime industry.”
Further, such matters concerning Liberia’s maritime fleet fall squarely within the purview of the Liberia Maritime Bureau and not its fiduciary the LISCR. Its announcement therefore, expressing opposition to the EU’s proposal is unacceptable as it constitutes gross interference in this country’s domestic affairs.
But just what clothes the LISCR with the authority to speak on behalf of the Government of Liberia, especially when it does not feel accountable to the Liberian people, is the question begging answers.
Since its establishment about 50 years ago, Liberia’s maritime program has been managed by external agents who operate in such secrecy that probably not even members of the Legislature may be aware of the full range of its activities.
Such secrecy leaves one to wonder whether the government and people of Liberia have and are being shortchanged by this corporate entity, the LISCR. Liberia’s maritime fleet ranks second to Panama in terms of gross tonnage of ships flying the Liberian flag.
The Liberian Registry comprises more than 4,400 vessels aggregating over 170 million gross tons, representing 12 percent of the world’s ocean-going fleet.
Because standards are lax and virtually non-enforced, many ship owners find the Liberian shipping registry attractive. And there have been several accidents involving Liberian flagged ships although, a LISCR website claims that “Liberia has earned international respect for its dedication to flagging the world’s safest and most secure vessels”.
But just how much is actually being earned annually by this predatory corporate entity (LISCR) remains under a cloak of secrecy. It is however generally believed that most of the revenue generated from this sector actually flows back to the LISCR.
During the civil war, when Liberia was virtually partitioned into Monrovia under the control of the Sawyer-led Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) and Greater Liberia, under the control of rebel leader Charles Taylor, the IGNU, finding itself cash-strapped and bereft of resources, turned to the Maritime funds which came in monthly payments amounting at the time to approximately US$18 million per month.
At one point, current Presidential Advisor, Emmanuel Shaw sued the Liberian government represented by the IGNU and placed an attachment on the Maritime funds. Shaw lost the case but it highlighted the significance of the Maritime funds to the national leadership.
A source from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has told the Daily Observer that there is strong suspicion that the LISCR is more like a front organization a virtual cash cow used to finance activities which would normally not receive official funding from the powers that really control that organization.
Further, according to sources, despite repeated public demands to reveal the details of the LISCR agreement, the government of Liberia under the leadership of President Sirleaf flatly refused to release the details of the LISCR agreement, which bestows on this nebulous body the authority to manage the country’s maritime fleet.
Informed sources suggest that the LISCR agreement may very well be one of those 64 agreements out of 66 which failed to meet the test of transparency.
The US government promotes transparency and accountability around the world however, it remains unclear why the US government has not insisted on the same for Liberia.
Admittedly, this is a challenge and responsibility of our national leadership to ensure the actualization of repeated promises to curb corruption. We call on the LISCR to publish for public information the agreement signed with the Liberian government to manage its maritime fleet. After 70 years under the bootheel of this predatory maritime body, it is now high time that the horse-rider relationship ends forthwith.