Preliminary findings from a new study by Transparency International (TI) have revealed the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) weak governance for impeding the shipping sector’s action on climate change.

The study said that the private shipping industry might influence IMO’s policymaking process to weaken the agency’s ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from maritime trade.

Scheduled to be published in full next month, the study primarily covered three aspects of IMO’s governance structure, including transparency, accountability and integrity.

It found that journalists are unable to report freely on IMO meetings, while non-profit organisations with a consultative membership of the IMO could be expelled if they criticise the agency or report on country views.

It has also raised concern about the matter that Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta, and the Bahamas, which together have registered 52% of the world’s commercial fleet, contribute 43.5% of the total funding from the IMO’s 170 member states.

These countries could have potentially manipulated the IMO policymaking processes, particularly in a situation when no mechanism exists to protect against undue influence, claimed the TI study.

“It took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy due in 2018, and a revised strategy due only in 2023.”

The TI study also expressed concern over the issue that private-sector delegates, including shipping companies appointed by the governments, can determine their government’s position on IMO policy.

The delegates are not subject to any conflict of interest rules or to a code of conduct.

The study, however, stated that even in the absence of a comprehensive access to information policy, transparency about the IMO’s administration is high.

Transparency International Climate Governance Integrity Programme coordinator Brice Böhmer said: “The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997.

“However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy due in 2018, and a revised strategy due only in 2023.

“A well-functioning organisation’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggests that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies.”

TI further urged the IMO to create a stronger governance framework and involve in a transparent process of open dialogue with its external stakeholders, including civil society and industry to improve transparency and other factors.