IMO Secretary-General’s contract renewed for a further two years

IMO Council – 86th session: 18th – 22nd June 2001

IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil is to continue to serve the Organization until the end of 2003 following the decision by the IMO Council today (19th June) to approve a two-year extension to his contract.

Addressing the Council meeting, Mr O’Neil said “I would like to thank the Council members for honouring me with the renewal of my contract for another two years and I am very pleased to be able to continue to serve the Organization. I also thank the staff of the Secretariat for the assistance and support given to me since my initial appointment in 1990.”

Looking ahead to what will be a period in which significant long-term efforts to improve maritime safety and reduce the risk of pollution will take effect, Mr O’Neil said, “The next two years are important for the Organization and I look forward to putting in place measures that will ensure world shipping has the best possible service. By dealing with issues at IMO and providing the leadership the world is looking for we will be able to maintain IMO’s position in the shipping sector, and to enhance it.”

Among the major landmarks for IMO and world shipping during the next two years will be the final implementation date of the revised STCW Convention, which is concerned with the training and certification of seafarers, and the extension of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code to all cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and above. These two measures form the cornerstone of IMO’s drive to focus on the human element in shipping during the 21st Century. Other key initiatives expected to produce significant results during the remainder of Mr O’Neil’s term in office include large-scale reviews of the safety of passenger-ships and bulk carriers, in both of which Mr O’Neil has undertaken a strong personal role.

Mr O’Neil added, “There are a number of things the Organization is engaged in right now which I would like to see through and together we can ensure that the fundamental objectives of the Organization can be pursued.”

Referring to the projected enlargement of the IMO Council from 32 to 40 members, Mr O’Neil said, “It is important to have representation on the Council from all parts of the world and I look forward to the 1993 amendments to the IMO Convention being put in place. I therefore place stress on fulfilling the requirements for their entry into force.” 

The extension to Mr O’Neil’s contract is expected to be formally approved by the IMO Assembly when it meets in November this year.


Mr. William A. O'Neil of Canada became Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency concerned with maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution from ships, on 1 January 1990. He succeeded India’s Mr C.P. Srivastava, who had served in the post for the previous sixteen years.

Mr. O'Neil has been associated with IMO since 1972, when he attended the IMO Council as Canada's representative. The Council serves as IMO's governing body between biennial sessions of the Assembly and consists of 32 Member States elected by the Assembly. In 1979 Mr. O'Neil was elected Chairman of the Council and held the post until his appointment by the Council to serve his first four-year term as Secretary-General.

Mr. O'Neil came to IMO from the Canadian St Lawrence Seaway Authority, where he had been President and Chief Executive Officer since 1980. After graduating from the University of Toronto he joined Canada's Federal Department of Transport. In 1955 he became Division Engineer in charge of bringing the Welland Canal up to the St Lawrence Seaway standards and subsequently held other senior posts with the Authority, including being in charge of the Welland Canal. In 1964 he became responsible for all Seaway construction and major maintenance work.

In 1971 Mr. O'Neil became Deputy Administrator, Marine Services, of the Canadian Marine Transport Administration and four years later became first Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. In addition, he was a Director of Canarctic Shipping Ltd and a Director of several intraprovincial and international bridge corporations. Mr. O'Neil is also Chancellor of the World Maritime University and Chairman of the Governing Board of the IMO International Maritime Law Institute.

Mr. O'Neil was unanimously re-elected to serve a second four-year term as Secretary-General beginning in 1994 and was again re-elected for a third four-year term beginning in 1998.

During his term of office Mr. O'Neil has encouraged IMO to take a more pro-active role in promoting maritime safety and combating marine pollution. He has been closely associated with efforts to focus attention on the safety of bulk carriers, ro-ro ferry safety and the importance of the human element.

Previous IMO Secretary-Generals

Ove Nielsen (Denmark)      1959-1961
William Graham (United Kingdom, Acting)    1961-1963
Jean Roullier (France)    1964-1967
Colin Goad (United Kingdom)   1968-1973
Chandrika Prasad Srivastava (India) 1974-1989


A photograph of Mr O’Neil is available on request.