World Maritime University
10 October 2010
Speech by E.E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization, and
Chancellor, World Maritime University
Excellencies, President of the IMO Assembly, Mayor of the City of Malmö, Permanent Representatives to IMO, Representatives of the Japanese Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Nippon Foundation, Governors, President and staff of the University, Distinguished guests, families and friends of the Graduands, Ladies and gentlemen,
Once again it is my great pleasure to come back to Malmö on an occasion as splendid as this. The opportunity this ceremony gives me to express my sincere congratulations to the men and women of the graduating class and to rejoice with them on the successful completion of their studies and to wish them well for the future is one I cherish immensely.
This is certainly an exciting time to graduate. We live in a global society, which is supported by a global economy and, undoubtedly, one in which shipping plays a vital role in underpinning international commerce.
The maritime community has seen, and gone through, enormous changes in recent years. Today, it stands poised on the brink of even more change. Historically, change is primarily driven by economic considerations; but environmental-, safety- and security-related concerns now exert a stronger influence over any human activity than ever before – and shipping, the global transport system capable of moving, over any given distance, millions of tons of cargo and thousands of passengers safely, efficiently and in an environmentally-friendly manner each day, is no exception.
There is, today, a huge demand for highly-trained, skilled and knowledgeable personnel to operate and manage shipping, both ashore and at sea; and the need to regulate it as an industry that is ever-evolving from the technological point of view, has become more acute nowadays than in the past. In this context, the concentration, in former years, of the minds of regulators on ship construction and equipment as the principal means of improving safety at sea and the protection of the marine environment has latterly been supplanted by a focus on the human element, to ensure that the people who work in the industry possess the necessary skills to cope with whatever developments may come their way now and in the future.
When the World Maritime University was created in 1983, it was very much with the future in mind. It was foreseen that highly-trained people from developing countries, in the main, would be needed to staff national maritime administrations and ports, to operate and manage shipping enterprises and to deal with safety and the environment. Experience has shown that this vision was entirely prescient and I am delighted to confirm that the University has subsequently fulfilled its intended role with great success; and, as this year’s graduating class once again demonstrates, continues to do so.
Close to 2,900 WMU graduates, scattered throughout the world, are individually and collectively well-positioned and equipped to provide the required leadership, knowledge and skills – whatever the demands of an industry as dynamic as shipping may be. The training received and the relationships developed at the University help create a cadre of competent people who can be counted and relied upon to perform professionally under any evolving circumstances.
Those who are graduating today are, therefore, joining a formidable international network of like-educated and like-minded professionals and I am sure that they will very quickly gain a firm grasp of the direction in which shipping is moving; a real appreciation of the latest developments; and a clear understanding of the trends and the shape of things to come – at least in the short to medium term. The network of WMU contacts within the international maritime community will prove to be an invaluable tool to them as they progress through their careers.
The continued success of the University over the years has brought global recognition of its excellence in maritime training and education – while the high regard and esteem it enjoys universally is obvious in the number of new students of the highest calibre, who apply annually to join its ranks.
As ever, this year’s roll of honour makes impressive reading and serves to demonstrate just how WMU has grown and spread since its inception. Today, we will honour two Ph.D. graduates in maritime administration – only the second and third since this particular programme began; 65 M.Sc. graduates and six more with a Postgraduate Certificate, making 73 graduates from the Malmö programme (who, incidentally, represent 41 countries). There are also 15 graduates from the Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Insurance, gained by distance learning, as well as 71 graduates from the China programme – 35 from the Dalian and 36 from the Shanghai Maritime Universities. All this brings the total number of graduates, since the University opened its gates back in the early 1980s, to 3,040. My congratulations, together with those of Dr. Srivastava, the founding father of the University and his successor and my predecessor, Mr. William O’Neil, go to each and every one of them and those present.
The University would not be able to function without the financial support of a very dedicated core group of donors, who, despite current budgetary constraints worldwide and, consequently, understandable competing priorities, have unfailingly demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, their commitment to it and their faith in its mission. The list of all those who have assisted the University, and continue doing so, is a long one, and I would like to take this opportunity to, once again, express my gratitude to all parties concerned – Governments and organizations alike. There are, however, a few who, more than others, deserve this public acknowledgement and expression of appreciation.
On top, as always, is the Government of Sweden, which steadfastly supports the University in many ways – in kind and morally; not to mention its financial support up to one-third of its annual budget. Without Sweden’s steady stream of support, it is questionable how, in these dire times, the University would be able to survive.
The City of Malmö has continually stood by the University and its provision of studying and hostel facilities, at considerable cost, has earned it a high esteem among all parties concerned – the students, in particular, who so much enjoy their stay in this beautiful town and, when the time comes for them to return home, bring with them the fondest of memories of their Alma Mater and the noble and hospitable people of Malmö. And I look forward to the day when the University opens its gates to receive students in its new state-of-the-art premises, which the City of Malmö will make available soon.
Special mention, too, must be made of China, now firmly established as part of the WMU family. The campuses in Dalian and Shanghai not only extend the University’s outreach, they also add an indispensible international dimension to the overall package. The continuing support of the Government of China is greatly welcomed and highly valued.
Of the rest of donors I wish to mention, in particular, the Ministry of Transport of Germany – whose Ambassador in London, Mr. Boomgaarden, is the President of the IMO Assembly and is our esteemed guest of honour today – Canada, the Republic of Korea, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Nippon Foundation of Japan, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the SAFEMED Project of the European Union and Inmarsat Ltd.
We are particularly grateful for this continued and invaluable support during the challenging financial situation in which the University has found itself recently following the unexpected withdrawal of funding from some long-standing donors, coupled with the absence of new external sources of income during the current, serious, and continuing, global financial crisis.
I have every confidence that the intensive, ongoing efforts to develop appropriate and sustainable funding solutions, through a combination of new funding resources and spending cuts, for an institution that has long proved its immense value to the maritime community as a whole, will prove successful.
My unreserved expression of appreciation goes also to the Governors of the University and the members of the Executive Board, who assist me and the President enormously in carrying out our duties under the institution’s reconstituted Charter.
The same deep expression of appreciation is due to the staff of the University, both academic and administrative, who work hard in their respective fields of competence, to maintain its high standards in all respects of performance and delivery.
Let me, now, say a few words to those, who we are here to honour today – the graduates of 2010. The degree you have obtained is worthy of the greatest respect, not only because of the excellence of the academic programme you have followed, but because of your own efforts in meeting the demanding requirements for graduation. However, as well as being a cause for celebration, the milestone of your graduation gives you an opportunity for reflection on your future role in, and contribution to, the maritime industry.
As I mentioned earlier, in today’s global economy, millions of people throughout the globe rely on ships to transport the great multitude of commodities, fuel, foodstuffs, goods and products on which we all depend.
Behind the scenes, however, lie the dedication and professionalism of men and women all over the world, from the seafarers – to whom we have dedicated 2010 as the “Year of the Seafarer” – to the industry leaders and all its servants, prominent and less visible, who, with the combined tools of careful management, technology and legislation, seek continuously to make shipping the safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible industry that it has evolved into over the years.
Where will you fit into this ever-changing picture? The balance of sound post-graduate education and advanced learning you have received at the University will serve you well as you seek to meet the needs of our industry and your countries. As you take up new, or return to your old, professional duties, you will have opportunities and responsibilities directly affecting the pace of change and the quality of services rendered by the maritime sector. The knowledge you acquired here and your overall positive attitude make us confident that you will put to good use all that the University has provided you in abundance to the benefit of yourselves and your families, your nations and the shipping world as a whole.
Furthermore, your time at the University has given you a unique opportunity to work together with colleagues from all over the world. This invaluable experience helps lay a firm foundation for your future prosperity and solid contribution to the ceaseless development of shipping. And I strongly hope that your studies here have helped you realize that the oceans do not divide us, but rather link us in our endeavours to create, through shipping, a better world, to the benefit of mankind.
As your graduation marks the end of your academic studies and the start of a new epoch in your career as servants of shipping, I wish you every success in all you do. May life be kind to you and the winds fair; I am looking forward to meeting and working with you in the future.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone here for joining us as we celebrate this high point in the professional life of those, who having studied hard and diligently during their stay in Malmö, are graduating today. I reiterate my congratulations to them – and to their families and friends who should be very proud of them, as we all are.
I look forward to the special contribution I have no doubt today’s graduands will make to the fascinating world of shipping as they move into an exciting future. Having been nurtured under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization, they will become emissaries, carrying and promulgating widely our mission statement for safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.
Once again, I wish them every success for the future as they apply, at home and internationally, the knowledge and maturity they acquired here, for the greater good of all.