Features — 02 August 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Annette Garel is new IMMARBE head

Via a statutory instrument published in the Belize Gazette dated July 27, 2013, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow and Director-General of the International Financial Services Commission, Gian Ghandi, have confirmed the promotion of Annette Garel to the rank of Senior Deputy Registrar of Merchant Shipping, effective Thursday, August 1, 2013.

Garel will assume responsibility for the operations of the Head Office of the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE) in Belize, Ghandi confirmed today.

Meanwhile, Santiago Gonzalez, a Belizean who has a long-standing tenure with the IBC (International Business Corporation) Registry, will assume leadership of operations for the IBC registry, Ghandi said.

Garel was previously the deputy registrar, and head of the registration department of IMMARBE. She assumes control of IMMARBE from Deputy Financial Secretary Marion Palacio, who was assigned to head the registry after the Government of Belize assumed control in June. Palacio’s predecessor was a Panamanian.

According to her profile posted on IMMARBE’s website, Garel has been with IMMARBE since 1994. She rose to the rank of Deputy Registrar in 2000.

Both the IBC and Merchant Shipping registries had been under the management of Belize Investment Services Limited (BISL) since the ‘90s; however, due to heavy pressure on the Government of Belize from the European Union, which alleged that Belize was not taking adequate measures to fulfill its flag state responsibilities to combat Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, the Government of Belize decided to effect the strategic takeover.

The intent now, said Ghandi, is to ensure that the country becomes compliant with EU standards to regulate IUU fishing, Ghandi indicated.

One of the major initiatives being undertaken is the overhaul of Belize’s high seas legislation. Ghandi said that new legislation is being drafted to quickly address the concerns, and particularly to revamp Belize’s high seas fishing law, which was put into effect in 2003.

Two significant changes will be stiffer penalties and the requirement for an observer, appointed by an independent international firm, to be onboard every Belize-flagged high seas vessel, as long as they are operating.

He told us that the entire fleet in the IMMARBE registry numbers 800-plus vessels, but only about 124 are fishing vessels, out of which a mere 21 fish in the EU zone. The others fish in places like the Pacific Ocean, and in the region of Taiwan and Japan.

Under the Law of the Sea Convention (1982), all countries have equal rights of fishing on the high seas, Ghandi said.

Under existing Belize high seas law, vessel operators committing infractions are first issued a written warning; the next step is an administrative fine of US$50,000; the third is suspension or cancellation of the offender’s license.

“They [the EU] said that is weak, so we have redrafted that and put in measures which they wanted,” said Ghandi.

The proposal is to increase that administrative penalty substantially, in the region of maybe US$500,000, Ghandi said. He noted, though, that Belize is surveying the penalties applied in other jurisdictions before it makes a final decision on what the new penalty regime will be.

Ghandi stated, though, “We don’t believe that our ships are doing IUU fishing…”

IMMARBE has indicated that a Voluntary International Marine Organization (IMO) Audit of the registry is pending for October; and it will also be implementing the Maritime Labour Convention, which comes into full force this year.

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