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Presentation of International Maritime Prize to Mr. E. E. Mitropoulos and unveiling of portrait

November 27, 2012

Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 5.45 p.m.
Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Excellencies, Chairman of Council, Secretaries-General Emeritus, distinguished delegates, 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 31 years ago.
And it gives me even greater pleasure to introduce the winner of the Prize for 2011, someone who needs no introduction, as he is well known to all of us – Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos, IMO Secretary-General Emeritus.  I also extend a special warm welcome to the Mitropoulos family, Chantal and their son Elias.  Unfortunately, their daughter, Athina, could not join us on this special occasion.
Efthimios (Thimio) E. Mitropoulos was born in Piraeus, Greece, to a maritime family.  He graduated from the Aspropyrgos Merchant Marine Academy in 1959.
Between 1959 and 1962, he served as apprentice, second and chief deck officer on merchant ships on voyages around the world and, after graduating from the Hellenic Coast Guard Academy in 1964, embarked on his career as a commissioned Coast Guard Officer in Corfu, first and Piraeus, later, retiring with the rank of Rear Admiral.
His association with IMO goes back to 1965, when he first represented Greece at the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection in December of that year.
Between 1966 and 1977, he participated, initially as a member and later as Head of the Greek Delegation, in the work of various Sub-Committees and the Maritime Safety Committee of IMO (which he served also as vice-chairman and chairman of working groups).  He also participated in the work of the Council and the Assembly as well as at the 1972 Collision Regulations, the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea Conferences convened by IMO and the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.
Between 1967 and 1972, he laid the foundations for the establishment of what has now become Greece’s Joint Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Centre.
Between 1972 and 1976, he regularly lectured at the Hellenic Coast Guard Academy and the Greek Master Mariners’ Centre of Superior Studies on shipping economics and policy and maritime safety/safety of navigation.
Between 1977 and 1979, he was Harbour Master of Corfu, with responsibility for the sea area surrounding Corfu and all the nearby Greek islands.
He joined IMO in January 1979 as Implementation Officer in the Maritime Safety Division and, in October 1985, was appointed Head of the Navigation Section.  In 1989, he was promoted to Senior Deputy Director for Navigation and Related Matters and, in May 1992, was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division and Secretary of the Maritime Safety Committee.
In May 2000, he was appointed Assistant Secretary-General and in November 2003, Mr. Mitropoulos was elected Secretary-General, a post he held with distinction until 31 December 2011.
His achievements as Secretary-General are too many to list exhaustively.  But chief among them must surely be:
• his leadership in the wide and effective implementation of the 1979 Maritime Search and Rescue Convention and his tireless efforts to promote the establishment of the Global SAR Plan; and his determination and drive in establishing MRCCs along the coast of Africa;
• his initiation of an international Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea and the holding of parallel World Maritime Day events around the world;
• his success in rallying the global maritime community in support of seafarers through the launching of the "Go to Sea!" campaign in 2009 and the denomination of 2010 as the international "Year of the Seafarer";
• his resolve to gain global support from all relevant stakeholders in response to the threat of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and
• his humanitarian support for individuals and developing countries through, among other things, using his good offices to promote the release of detained seafarers and the establishment of funds to support the south east Asian tsunami victims and those of the Haiti earthquake.
In making its nomination, Greece expressed its gratitude and recognition of Mr Mitropoulos’s integrity, profound knowledge and inspiring leadership.  This has been widely recognized by the number of medals and honours conferred upon him by a number of countries.  I am sure I speak for everybody here this evening when I say how much we would like to echo those sentiments.
Before, however, affording myself the great pleasure of presenting the International Maritime Prize for 2011 to Mr. Mitropoulos, I would like to invite His Excellency Mr. Konstantinos Moussouroulis, Minister of Shipping, Maritime Affairs and the Aegean of the Hellenic Republic, to address the meeting.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a bonus this evening, we also have an additional ceremony.
Some years ago, Mr. Mitropoulos himself began a tradition, a tradition that we are fortunate to be able to continue this evening.
Visitors to other UN Agencies around the world will be aware that most of the Agencies’ headquarters buildings are adorned with portraits that pay tribute to the men and women who have served at their helms over the years.
This was something that had been lacking at IMO.
However, my predecessor decided that those who had gone before him were indeed worthy of the same kind of formal and official recognition as other Agencies, and so he commissioned a series of portraits from the renowned marine artist, Robert Lloyd.  I am sure you will have seen them on the second floor, outside the meeting rooms.
And, of course, nobody could possibly argue that Mr. Mitropoulos himself is not fully deserving of that same recognition and respect.  And so, tonight, we continue that tradition by unveiling the portrait of Mr. Mitropoulos that will take its rightful place alongside his predecessors.
Once again, Robert Lloyd is the selected artist.
I now have pleasure in inviting His Excellency Mr. Moussouroulis to unveil the portrait of Secretary-General Emeritus Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos and would like to invite His Excellency Ambassador Bikas and Mr. Mitropoulos to join the Minister and myself by the portrait.