Presentation of the 2009 International Maritime Prize to
Mr. Johan Franson of Sweden
Monday, 1 November 2010 at 5.45 p.m.
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
“Excellencies, Secretary-General Emeritus, Chairman of the Council, distinguished delegates and guests, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen, good evening!
It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to this ceremony for the presentation of the International Maritime Prize – an annual event that today marks the continuation of a tradition that started 30 years ago.
And it gives me even greater pleasure to introduce the winner of the Prize for 2009, Mr Johan Franson of Sweden – a man who hardly needs an introduction, as he is well known to us all and the maritime community the world over.
Mr. Franson won the Prize for his many years of outstanding contribution to IMO and shipping but, more particularly, for his excellent stewardship of the Council, which he chaired with great success between 2005 and the end of 2009, when he retired from the Swedish Maritime Administration.
Most of his distinguished career was dedicated to maritime affairs. After graduating from law school in 1972, he spent several years serving the Swedish court system. In 1977, he joined the Swedish Maritime Administration as a lawyer and, in 1988, was elevated to General Legal Counsel. In that capacity, he advised the Swedish Government on a variety of maritime issues.
His expertise and competence were made good use of in the wake of the tragic incident with heavy loss of life involving the ro-ro ferry Estonia in September 1994, when he was tasked with the investigation of various difficult and unprecedented legal issues relating to it. It was in that capacity that he was appointed head of the Swedish delegation to the 1995 SOLAS Conference, which drastically changed the way we were approaching the safety of ro-ro passenger ships; and subsequently played an instrumental role in advancing work on safety-related issues undertaken within IMO, which eventually paved the way for the Stockholm Agreement, thereby greatly strengthening the international requirements for damage stability on passenger ferries sailing between, or to or from, designated ports in the North West Europe and the Baltic Sea.
Mr. Franson’s deep knowledge of, and skill in dealing with, legal matters in the maritime field and his ability to identify and understand technical issues, combined with his problem-solving capabilities, led to his appointment, in 1995, as Maritime Safety Director and Head of the Swedish Maritime Safety Inspectorate and, subsequently, in 2009, as Director at the Swedish Maritime Administration. His leadership talents and the initiatives he took in several areas of his portfolio made a significant and lasting contribution to the enhancement of maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment in his home country.
Early in his career, Mr. Franson showed a special interest in, and aptitude for, international negotiations. From the beginning of the 1980s, he attended IMO meetings, initially as a member of the Swedish delegation and later as its leader. From 1995, he attended every meeting of the Assembly, most Council sessions, every MSC meeting, as well as numerous sessions of the MEPC and the FSI Sub-Committee. In addition to participating in IMO meetings, he served the Organization as an elected official on several occasions. To name but a few of the feathers in his cap, he was elected President of the 2002 International Conference, which adopted a new SOLAS chapter XI-2 on Special Measures to enhance Maritime Security, thus introducing in the Convention, and IMO’s regulatory regime, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Twice he chaired Committee 1 of the Assembly dealing with Administrative, Financial, Legal and Technical Co-operation matters, while also chairing various Working Groups and thus playing a central role in the elaboration of the Organization’s strategic plan and the development of the Code for the Implementation of Mandatory IMO Instruments.
In 2001, Mr. Franson was elected Vice-Chairman of the Council, a post he retained until his election to the chair in November 2005. When he relinquished his office, at the end of last year, the Council gave him a spontaneous and well-deserved standing ovation as a mark of its deep appreciation and in recognition of his outstanding services to IMO over many years. When I, subsequently, reported to last year’s session of the Assembly on his then impending departure, I highlighted his dedicated and most successful service to the Council, which, by then, he had chaired with great distinction over four years. During a very demanding time, he had shrewdly led the IMO executive body to making the right, well-balanced decisions that were needed at the time for the Organization to move forward successfully. He was straightforward, honest and correct in all his undertakings. With him, I added, you knew where you stood and his successful stewardship of the policy-making body of IMO would make it a hard act for his successor to follow. For me, personally, our working relationship had been one of the most harmonious and pleasant I had ever experienced – and would have been ideal had I been able to always understand his Swedish sense of humour!
The way the Council bid him farewell, when he performed his swan song in November 2009, spoke volumes of the degree of appreciation of its Members and of the high esteem in which they held him. His departure from the Council and IMO heralded the end of an era and, speaking on the occasion of his last appearance as a delegate, I expressed the hope that his successor would use him as a role model in his efforts to guide the Council towards successful outcomes.
I am truly delighted that Johan Franson, a great servant of IMO and shipping and an intimate member of this family, is the recipient of the highest and most prestigious prize the Organization awards.