IMO International Maritime Law Institute
2014 Graduation Ceremony, Malta, 7 June 2014
Address by Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization
President Emeritus, Honourable Speaker, Ministers, Ambassadors, Excellencies, IMLI Director, ladies and gentlemen, students,
It is a genuine pleasure for me to be here today. I am honoured to be able to share with the students what, I am sure, will be one of the most important occasions of their lives to date: graduation from the International Maritime Law Institute – IMLI.
Graduations are always a cause for celebration, but it is celebration based on hard work and dedication. This year's event is given extra significance by the fact that IMLI is this year marking its twenty-fifth anniversary; indeed, just a few weeks ago we held a celebratory event at IMO headquarters in London to commemorate IMLI's 25 years in the service of the rule of international maritime law and again we did the same yesterday evening at the Institute here in Malta.
I always find it inspirational to see members of the younger generations actively engaged in developing their knowledge base and skillsets within their chosen career path. By so doing, they equip themselves with the foundation to explore their lives and to face the challenges that will inevitably come their way.
I am a great believer in the value of education and training. Time spent learning is never time wasted; and in the maritime world, the need for high-quality, well-educated people at all levels, in all sectors and at sea and on shore is as great as it has ever been.
The world's seas and oceans constitute a truly vital resource. They provide mankind with raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 90% of global trade. Although once a largely unregulated space, the seas and oceans of the modern era are surrounded by a multi-layered legal edifice that is both extensive and deep.
To promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation, IMO has adopted an array of the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of pollution from ships.
The comprehensive portfolio of IMO treaty instruments do an excellent job of defining the rights and privileges and, at the same time, the duties, obligations and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's seas and oceans.
The true value of these legal instruments is reflected in their effective, thorough and uniform implementation throughout the world. In order for them to be truly effective, States, in their turn, need to enact appropriate domestic legislation to reflect their provisions and provide, thereby, a mechanism for implementation and enforcement.
Indeed, this year's World Maritime Day theme is "IMO conventions: effective implementation". It therefore seems befitting that the same theme is used to underscore the fundamental role of IMLI. Since its inception, the Institute has been one of the cornerstones of IMO's mission to enhance and build global capacity within the maritime sector.
By providing a steady influx of highly trained legal professionals, IMLI has been instrumental in the effective implementation of international instruments and has thereby played a central role in helping to establish the solid legal foundations needed for the maritime sector to thrive.
IMLI graduates now occupy positions of great responsibility throughout the world and their knowledge, expertise and influence has been of immense and tangible benefit, particularly for the developing world, and indeed for all the economies and communities that rely on the safe and secure passage of their goods across the seas. The contribution of IMLI graduates to the international maritime community serves also as a testament to the Institute's success in achieving the objectives for which it was created.
Let me turn my attention now to the most important people here today – the graduating students who constitute the class of 2014. This is a day that marks the ending of one chapter of your lives, and the beginning of another.
You will be aware that one of IMO's most important functions is to develop and maintain conventions, codes and other legal instruments dealing with shipping safety, the prevention of marine pollution and other matters. Maritime lawyers are essential when it comes to implementing these treaties and experience has shown that the lack of appropriate legal expertise is a major obstacle in many developing countries.
But you, the students and graduates from IMLI, are helping to overcome this problem and the entire maritime community is benefitting as a result. Shipping is such an international activity that all those involved must be able to reach the high standards that the global community demands. This year's graduates will help to ensure that this is achieved. I applaud them for their success – and the Institute for teaching them so well.
As a graduate of IMLI, you will have a bright future – because IMLI is a unique educational institution established by IMO. Its strength is that it is a part of IMO: a formal educational institution where maritime law professionals are fully trained to support the objectives of IMO. As graduates of IMLI, your status will be properly recognized in the maritime communities and your skills and knowledge will be invaluable when it comes to implementation of IMO Instruments.
So I urge you: throughout your careers, please, continue to support the ideals and objectives of IMO; and continue to support international shipping. You will have a great future, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have helped to maintain and strengthen the established system that regulates international shipping.
Before concluding, taking this opportunity of graduation in the year to mark the 25th Anniversary, I want to give all graduating students, and in fact all the teaching staff and professors, one topic in the field of Law of the Sea for their lifetime study: the relationship between UNCLOS and IMO conventions.
This is a huge field and an evolving field in international law. This is still a new field and will offer you plenty of opportunity to establish your own authority and provide real contributions in the history of the development and formation of Law of the Sea. The key issue is the position of IMO conventions and the role of IMO to provide special international law under the principle of acceptance of ships which comply with the generally accepted IMO conventions, against the framework of general international law embodied in UNCLOS.
If I give you just one example, it seems to me that we have not yet established a robust theory or doctrine over application of national law of coastal States on construction, equipment and manning to ships registered in foreign countries which are making a call at a port in international waters, taking into account the provisions of Article 21, paragraph 2, of UNCLOS and the objectives of the work of IMO.
I do not want to change my celebratory speech into a lecture and I will leave this important issue which is very close to the heart of the objectives of the work of IMO.
I congratulate the 25th graduating class and wish them the very best in their future endeavours, I am confident that they will follow their predecessors and will leave their mark in the development, codification and implementation of international maritime law.
I wish you all, and IMLI itself, the very best of luck for the future; and I look forward to meeting many of you in the future as you progress through the stages of your professional lives.