After 70 Years under Its Bootheel, It Is Now High Time to End the Translucent and Predatory LISCR Agreement

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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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Journalism calls for research, accuracy and truth telling. If the information one is searching for is not found, it is good to consult major actors, because they are many and some highly placed sources are in country, all this paper would have done was to called them up and the information would have been flowing like water from the fountain, but these are lazy writers who played on sentiments and speculations and the laziness of Liberians to read.
    The history of the Liberian Maritime is an opened book, though I am not their spoke man, but really hate for the facts to be distorted and the Daily Observer, ought to do better than what other papers are doing around here.
    From the inception of this program that was organized by the Americans in 1948, this program was managed by the ITC, which created the ITC bank, which is now the International Bank; the program ran up to the time President Charles Taylor started to governed Liberia; he not being satisfied with the manner, the program operated, cancelled the agreement with ITC and enlisted the services of LISCR in the late 1990s, this was a program singly managed by Mr. Benoni Urey and Charles Taylor as their private enterprise! That is not interesting to the Observer, but find pleasure in muddling the image of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,by saying she flatly refused to have the agreement published for the Daily Observer to see, knowing fully well that is a competitive enterprise, that your business rivals could even come out with enticing provisions to woo your clients( prior to LISCR coming in, Liberia was number 1 maritime nation in the world, but because ITC was allegedly selling Liberia’s trade information, others started competing with Liberia, thus demoting it to second place).
    When the Madam became President, the agreement was put up for re-negotiation and rectified by the National Legislature, this editor has chosen to say that perhaps, with certainty, it was one of those agreement that they are calling around here as “bogus”. I have always say bogus means a contract that is not legal, but concession agreements that the Republic of Liberia is getting taxes from, cannot be bogus.
    If you as editor wants to make a statement about an issue, research it, and then deliver it masterly and stop insulting us as if we are hanging on your every word and do not know better, but believed in your idea that is clothed in politics.
    Just go to the Maritime Agency or other places and find the agreement, read it and say what you want with a credible source.

  2. POSTED AT 12:03 PM EST ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2020

    There are a few issues that need to be pointed out for the benefit of readers.

    #1. The LISCR generates revenue for management of Liberia’s maritime registry. Thus, it has an interest in the proposed EU regulations which may increase operating expenditure for shipping companies and such cost may adversely affect the registration fees received by LISCR on behalf of Liberia.

    #2. The IGNU administration disclosed that the annual revenue generated from the maritime fund was about US$20 million per year, less US$4 million received by the maritime registry (which was not LISCR at the time). So, IGNU eventually received only US$16 million FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR, not US$18million per month as the Daily Observer has claimed.

    #3. I remember a press conference held by Amos Sawyer who explained that the revenue flow was not consistent on a monthly basis. In essence, it all depended on when the shipping companies renewed their registration. So, there were revenue shortfalls for GOL sometimes which affected operations of GOL [ payroll expenditure, payments for goods and services, etc.].

    #4. The lawsuit filed by Emmanuel Shaw II was filed to recover funds owed to his company LNPC for supply of petroleum. Prior to 1989, fuel supply was erratic resulting in days of queuing at gasoline stations. I can personally attest to the time when I studied my lessons in a car while waiting in queue. LNPC changed that by supplying GOL on credit with the expectation of subsequent payment.

    #5. According to Keesings Contemporary Archives [ a British periodical], Shaw was appointed Finance Minister on June 3, 1989. As the NPFL approached the capital city in mid 1990, one of the Liberian newspapers reported that Shaw had departed and shipped his vehicles out of Liberia to Ghana where he reportedly owned “ an estate”. Meanwhile, the Liberian presidential jet had transported President Doe’s immediate family to England for safety and remained there.

    #6. After IGNU assumed office, it assumed the GOL’s debt and Shaw filed suits against the GOL. Thus, he targeted the plane and the maritime funds.

    #7. As Gbada Flomo has pointed out, the involvement of LISCR commenced during the Taylor administration.

    #8. Despite my partial concurrence with Gbada Flomo on the commencement of LISCR’s involvement (succeeding the ITC), I disagree with his assertion that the maritime fund was the private enterprise of Benoni Urey and Charles Taylor. To the contrary, it was a source of revenue for the GOL at a time when other revenue sources [ from diamonds, timber] were subject to international sanctions.

    #9. Even though the LISCR manages the maritime fund, the GOL has historically maintained a representative assigned to the office in Reston, Virginia. If my memory serves me correctly, the salary was a low six-figure amount. I also remember that Tarty Teh was appointed the GOL representative during the NTGL administration (it may have been a position assigned to LURD as [part of the peace agreement). Please GOOGLE “ Tarty Teh Liberia maritime” and confirm his appointment through the numerous results.

    #10. I hope the information I have provided

  3. Thanks, Mr. Renford Walsh for these correction of my assertions of Messrs. Urey and Taylor, as their private venture, the Bureau was to manage 10% of that government revenue source; too much for one entity of government, being controlled by an individual; while other were struggling. No audit of such funds to date!
    The other issue, is these people think they can just throw information at people without a thoughts that others have been around and can remembered events as they occurred. The Daily Observers though to be very careful with its editorials as it has garnered much respect amongst Liberians locally and internationally.

  4. POSTED AT 9:48 PM EST ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2020

    CORRECTION : In my previous posting, my last sentence should have read —-

    ” …. I hope the information I have provided has been useful to any possible discussion that follows.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION. ”

    I inadvertently detached my pre-written text during COPY & PASTE. I am sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

    ————————-

    Regarding the Maritime audit, I believe Urey has asserted at least once that an audit was conducted.

    I read it somewhere. Unfortunately, I just can’t remember the source.

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