IMO Embarks on New Era as Panama’s Arsenio Dominguez Starts Leadership Role

Arsenio Domingues
Arsenio Domingues became the new Secretary-General of the IMO on January 1 (IMO)

Published Jan 2, 2024 7:48 PM by The Maritime Executive


Panama’s long-time representative to the International Maritime Organization, Arsenio Dominguez, officially began his role as Secretary-General with a brief message outlining his vision to the maritime community. He sought to highlight the successes of the organization while also recognizing the need for it both to evolve and the strong near-term challenges that must be addressed.

Dominguez launched his candidacy 13 months ago to succeed Kitack Lim who had led the IMO since 2016 and completed his two terms as of December 31, 2023. It was a hotly contested election with Domingues running on a platform of “Taking the lead, for a united and better future.” He declared that he would serve the IMO by “putting people and planet first.” He won the election in July 2023.

“With me as the 10th Secretary-General, I welcome you to join us in an era of progression of the organization, one that leads by example and with higher values from inclusion, diversity, and transparency,” Domingues said in his taped message. “I look forward to working with you for the years to come into a new and exciting era to make this maritime sector a much better one.”



He takes the lead of the IMO at an especially challenging time. Shipping is literally under attack in the Red Sea with the industry facing one of its most significant disruptions as a growing number of ships are diverting adding 5,000 miles or more to their voyages by going around for Africa to avoid the Red Sea. At the same time, the industry is under increasing pressure from regulators and environmentalists to move faster to address the critical need to decarbonize its operations. Many have been critical of the IMO for its slow pace, although in 2023 the members reached consensus on much stricter targets. Geographically, regulators such as the European Union however have moved ahead with their own programs and carbon tax threatening the IMO’s ability to establish a global approach to the challenge.

Domingues marks his 20th year at the IMO in 2024, most recently serving as the director of the Marine Environment Division, a position he assumed in 2017, as well as a member of the Senior Management Committee of the IMO. He was first appointed in 2004 as the alternate representative of Panama to the IMO and starting in 2014 he was appointed Ambassador of Panama to the IMO. Dominguez, who is a naval architect, has more than 25 years of professional experience in the international maritime world.

“Here at IMO, we have a great trajectory of successes. But of course, we can always do more. I don't need to tell you how vital the shipping industry is for the world,” he said in his first message as Secretary-General. “It's this time of the year when we look back in reflection and excitement of the things that we have done, the things that we could have done, and the things that we're yet to do.”

He points to the IMO’s strong support for member states, seafarers, and the industry. He credits the IMO’s initiatives for helping to reduce the accident rate aboard ships as well as taking a strong role in supporting seafarers during the pandemic. He also points to the 2020 introduction of the global sulfur cap which contributed to improving air quality while saying that he believes “now we have a trajectory for the decarbonization of the industry.”