World Maritime University


Graduation Ceremony

Address by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, IMO Secretary-General and Chancellor of the World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden, 7 October 2007

Excellencies, Minister Yildirim, Representatives of the Swedish Foreign Ministry and Maritime Administration, Chairman of the Malmö City Board,
Permanent Representatives to IMO and Delegates to the eighty-third session of the Maritime Safety Committee, Professor Gold, Representative of the Japanese Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Nippon Foundation, Managing Director of the Swedish Shipowners Association, Governors, President and staff of the University, Distinguished guests, families and friends of the graduands, Graduands, ladies and gentlemen,

Once again it gives me great pleasure to be with you today at this World Maritime University graduation ceremony. This is an event that occupies a high-priority place in my diary, one I always look forward to with excitement and anticipation - not just because the keenness and the passion of the student body is so invigorating and so infectious, but also because it gives me the opportunity to meet those who the University prepares to play a significant role in shaping the future of the shipping industry; and, as often seems to be the case, the future of IMO - and that is always very rewarding.

On this occasion, we are honoured to be joined by several special guests among whom I would single out Mr. Binali Yildirim, the Minister of Transport of the Republic of Turkey and a 1991 WMU Graduate, who studied Maritime Safety Administration in Istanbul; and Professor Edgar Gold, a Master Mariner and former Professor of Law at Dalhousie University, Canada, who has been a WMU Governor for 13 years.

Of course, we are here today primarily to honour the students, young men and women, who have shown how, supplementing their own natural abilities with a healthy dose of hard work and application, can pay dividends and help ensure they succeed in achieving their goals. It is this attitude and aptitude that I hope and trust they will carry forward into their professional lives while serving the maritime community and all that it stands for.

The ultimate beneficiary of all this will, no doubt, be global civil society, within which the graduates of this University now form a sizeable and very influential cadre. Many have risen to high levels within the maritime authorities in their home countries; others have taken the commercial route and achieved prominent positions within one facet or another of this most diverse of industries - all of them reminiscing about their happy days here in Malmö when, to my delight, they greet me every time I visit their country. Several others find their way into their national delegations at various IMO meetings, giving me great pleasure to see their familiar faces whenever they come over to our London Headquarters.

The soon-to-be new graduates have swelled the ranks of the University's alumni to the extent that, by the end of this year, there will be a total of 2,464 graduates from 153 countries and territories, all making a massive contribution to the well-being of the maritime sector all over the world.

When passing out, today's graduands will be leaving behind an institution that is in fine health - indeed, rarely has it been in better. In terms of student numbers, the total of those at the Malmö, Shanghai and Dalian campuses, the distance learning programme and the Professional Development Courses reached a height of 1,115 in 2006, the largest number ever recorded to date. Of these, some 409 were trained in the postgraduate programmes, both in the campuses and by distance learning, while another 706 attended Professional Development Courses in Malmö and at client locations around the world.

Moreover, the 206 graduates of 2006, from the three campuses and the distance-learning programme, also represent the greatest number of students ever to have attained WMU qualifications in a single year. My congratulations go to all concerned - students, faculty staff and lecturers - on this excellent achievement and on the hard work and immense dedication that all concerned have shown in order to attain such a worthy result.

Recent years have seen a flourishing, not just of the body of students, but also of the institution itself. There is no doubt that this has now become a truly world-class educational establishment with an outreach and an influence that I am sure is living up to, and even exceeding, the most ambitious aspirations of its founding fathers, driven by the dynamic persuasive force of my pre-predecessor Dr. Srivastava, nearly a quarter of a century ago.

The portfolio of academic programmes, for example, continues to expand. Last year saw the addition of a new Master's programme in maritime law, aimed at Swedish students and taught in collaboration with Lund University.

WMU's short-term, non-degree Professional Development Courses continued to thrive in 2006, with courses being delivered not only in Malmö but also in diverse locations around the world, such as in Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Nigeria, Panama, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the United Republic of Tanzania.

An exciting new PhD programme in Maritime Administration, focussing on the technical, legal and management aspects of maritime administration, was also launched in 2006 with the enrolment of five students.

Planning is also in progress for the establishment of a new joint doctoral programme with Kobe University in Japan and WMU has also provided advice to the authorities in India on the creation of the Indian Maritime University.

Nevertheless, despite its noteworthy and commendable performance (including prudent and sensible financial management, for which the President, Board of Governors and Executive Council are to be congratulated), this is an institution that refuses to rest on its laurels, as, through new initiatives, it strives to achieve even better results now and in the future.

None of these successes, and those to come through continued expansion of WMU's course and research outreach, would have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the President of the University, Dr. Laubstein, ably assisted by an excellent team of professors, lecturers and administrators; and without the generous and vital support of a host of benefactors and contributors, who provide much of the wherewithal, both financial and in-kind, on which the World Maritime University depends.
Of all the donors, the largest single fellowship contributor is the Ocean Policy Research Foundation of Japan, which, in this year alone, stands to provide some 30 per cent of the total fellowship funding. The University itself will contribute some 20 per cent of that total from revenue generated by consultancy, research, operational savings and miscellaneous business activities. This makes it its own second largest fellowship donor - indeed, over the last ten years, the University has contributed a total of US$4,963,000 towards financing the studies of 135 students.

Altogether, a total of 89 new fellowships for the 2006 Malmö MSc programme were donated, while over half of its new full-time students for the year, including 13 per cent on the Malmö MSc programme and all the students on the MSc programmes in Shanghai and Dalian and its distant-learning programme, were self-funded.

I, therefore, wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation, and indeed that of the whole of IMO, to all donor Governments and organizations for their valuable support to the University citing, in particular, the Nippon Foundation and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation of Japan, the International Transport Workers' Federation, the Governments of Canada, Denmark, France, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom, Inmarsat Global Limited and the European Union's SAFEMED project.

I also wish to pay a special tribute to the generosity of the Government of China for its recent contribution of US$106,000 towards the replacement of 100 computers at the Henrik Smith Student Residence; to the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) for continuing its practice of the past three years of a special donation of US$60,000 to meet the cost of an annual international symposium on maritime security held at WMU; to the Japanese classification society, Class NK, for its donation of US$59,000 to upgrade the multi media laboratories at WMU; and to Les Amis de l'Université Maritime Mondiale (AUMM) in France for its contribution of €8,000 to establish and equip the "Salle Pierre Houssin" for PhD students, in memory of Professor Houssin, who sadly passed away last year.

And, of course, I would not close my list of thanksgiving without expressing immense gratitude to the Government of Sweden and the City of Malmö for the strong support and exquisite hospitality they generously provide to the University and to its students.

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Ladies and gentlemen, although this is always a happy occasion, it would be remiss of me not to mention the shock we all felt on receiving the devastating news of the unexpected and premature passing last October of Igor Ponomarev, who, among his many roles and responsibilities in the international maritime community, was, at the time of his demise, also a Governor of this University. Igor is greatly missed, both from a professional and from a personal point of view.

To preserve his memory, I have proposed to the IMO Council the establishment of a scholarship at the University to commemorate Igor's life, which the Council endorsed wholeheartedly. The Igor Ponomarev Scholarship Fund, as we named it, will support the attendance of a student on the 17-month MSC programme and a decision on the winner of the scholarship will be made soon.

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And now, a few words to today's graduands to whom I extend warm congratulations on the successful completion of their studies. I welcome you all, with the deepest affection, to the family of those who have passed through this institution and gone on to achieve great distinction within the maritime community.

The degree you are receiving today represents the fruit of your labour over the past year but it also marks the beginning of a new stage in the challenging career you have chosen - a career that will benefit yourselves, your families, your countries and the international maritime community as a whole.

Most of you, I am sure, will have opportunities to make a genuine, positive mark on this world that we share. I hope you make the most of them, and I am confident that your time here in Malmö has prepared you very well to do so. The future is yours and you are in an enviable position not shared by many. We are proud of you as, I know, are your families and friends.

From today's graduation on, you will be called to serve an industry, which, thanks to IMO's and governments' persistent efforts over many years has good, and improving, credentials on safety, security and environmental protection, characterized by a high sense of corporate responsibility. Shipping is caring, sensitive to criticism and prompt and eager to improve its performance so that it may become even better - determined to continue striving for quality in all its manifestations, committed to working harmoniously with others to enhance its overall performance and improve its image. It is, quite simply, the industry that feeds us, keeps us warm and also keeps the lights on. As you embark on your careers within shipping, be mindful of the part you can play in fostering the new, positive, image of shipping and do all you can to spread the word about this excellent and most vital of industries.

When addressing the 81st International Convention of the Propeller Club of the United States in Athens, two days ago, on this year's theme "Friendships across the Oceans", I said that, to me, those "friendships" meant relationships that are hammered out through serving the same, great industry of shipping, irrespective of nationality or status. It meant bonds established among partners over many years of doing business together, honouring their words and respecting their deals. It meant striking gentlemen's agreements and sticking to them. It meant honesty, straight-forwardness and mutual esteem. We mean what we say and say what we mean.

When we shake hands, to seal a deal at the end of a negotiation, we are conscious not only of what we are concluding but also of our steadfast determination to honour our part of the deal. Sayings l
ike "my word, my bond" and "fair competition" have their origin in shipping and are words that, above anything else, characterize the shipping community and single out its servants: they are the ingredients, the deep roots of that unique group of men and women who, in their totality, constitute the brotherhood of the sea. Well, my dear graduands: My vision, indeed my dream, is to see you becoming worthy members of that brotherhood. May my dream come true soon!

And with that, all that is left for me to do now, on this prestigious occasion, is to wish you all good luck and every success. May life be kind to you and the winds be fair. I look forward to meeting you again in any future role you choose, as you apply the specialized knowledge you have acquired in this great institution in pursuit of IMO's desired goals of safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean seas. Your countries need you, shipping is expecting you and IMO will welcome you.

Thank you.