International Maritime Prize awarded to IMO Secretary-General emeritus, Mr. William A. O'Neil


William O'Neil receives international maritime prize from Secretary-General Mitropoulos The prestigious International Maritime Prize for 2003 has been presented to IMO Secretary-General emeritus Mr William A. O'Neil of Canada.

Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, presented the prize to Mr. O'Neil during a special ceremony (on Monday, 15 November) at IMO's London Headquarters during the Organization's 93rd Council session.

The International Maritime Prize is awarded annually by IMO to the individual or organization judged to have made the most significant contribution to the work and objectives of IMO. The 92nd session of the IMO Council in June took the decision to award the prize to Mr. O'Neil in recognition of his long service to the cause of maritime safety.

Mr. William O'Neil
During his fourteen-year tenure as Secretary-General of IMO, William O'Neil always demonstrated a passionate and genuine interest in the values that the Organization seeks to promote. He developed a strong track record of personal intervention in the work of the Organization. In his early years in office, for example, there was a sharp and, in his view, unacceptable increase in bulk carrier accidents. Mr O'Neil's response was to present the IMO Assembly with a resolution on the matter, the first time such an initiative had come from the Secretary-General. It was not to be the last.

Throughout his career with IMO, Mr O'Neil took a detailed interest in all the work of the Organization, as one would expect. But certain other issues prompted his particular attention and, over the years, the Organization benefited from his personal intervention in major work items such as ro-ro passenger ship safety, large passenger vessels' safety, the shift in emphasis onto the human element and the massive efforts undertaken by the Organization to establish a regulatory framework for an effective security regime to cover international shipping and port activities.

During his period at the helm, Secretary-General O'Neil worked hard to broaden participation in the Organization to reflect its expanding role. One important consequence of the increased Membership during Mr O'Neil's tenure is that that almost all the nations of the world that have a significant interest in shipping, whether as shipowning countries, coastal states, suppliers of maritime services or simply as trading nations, now have a voice in the Organization's work. The most important IMO Conventions, such as SOLAS, MARPOL, STCW, the Collision Regulations and the Tonnage Convention, now apply to more than 90 per cent of the world fleet.

Mr O'Neil also gave strong encouragement to the active participation in the Organization's work by all sectors of the industry. As a result, there are now more than 60 non-governmental organizations and over 30 intergovernmental organisations that enjoy consultative status with IMO and which regularly attend meetings and participate in the Organization's decision-making process. Bodies representing all facets of shipping's many and diverse participants, from naval architects through ship builders, ship operators, ship suppliers, terminal operators and many more, all play their part, as indeed do interests from outside the industry, such as environmental, legal and financial organizations.

In developing the scope of the Organization and expanding the base of those who actively participate, Mr O'Neil also sought to pursue new sources of extra-budgetary funding to support the Organization's technical co-operation programme, which over many years made a massive contribution to the ability of the Membership, and of developing countries in particular, to adopt and implement the Organization's instruments.

To this end, Mr. O'Neil took a notable and personal interest in strengthening the relevance and capacity of the Organization's educational institutions, which have become firmly established global providers of maritime training and education, serving as Chancellor of the World Maritime University in Sweden and Chairman of the Governing Board of the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta. His commitment to these training institutes becoming institutions of excellence, was duly recognized recently when he was made, by the IMO Council, Chancellor Emeritus of the WMU and was awarded by IMLI for his contribution to the progressive development and codification of international maritime law.

William. O'Neil himself has been associated with IMO since 1972, when he attended the IMO Council as Canada's representative. In 1979 he was elected Chairman of that body and held the post until his appointment by the Council to serve his first four-year term as Secretary-General, which began in 1990.

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. He was elected for a further two-year term, beginning in 2002. His contribution to international shipping activities has been recognized by the world maritime and engineering communities through the award of many decorations, honours and memberships of professional institutions. On November 3rd this year he was invested in the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, which is one of the most senior orders of the British honours system.

But, perhaps most importantly, during his tenure as IMO Secretary-General there was a material and sustained reduction in both the loss of life at sea and marine pollution from ships. It is in the immense efforts that lie behind these simple statistics that William O'Neil will draw his greatest satisfaction.


International Maritime Prize
The International Maritime Prize consists of a sculpture in the form of a dolphin and includes a financial award. The winner of the annual prize is also invited to write a paper on a theme relating to the work of IMO. The paper is published in IMO's quarterly magazine, IMO News.

Previous winners
Winners of the prize since 1995:

• 2003 - Mr William O'Neil (Canada)
• 2002 - Mr Frank Wall (United Kingdom)
• 2001 - Mr. Giuliano Pattofatto (Italy) (posthumously)
• 2000 - Mr. Heikki Juhani Valkonen (Finland)
• 1999 - Mr. Ian Mills Williams (Australia)
• 1998 - International Lifeboat Federation
• 1997 - Dr. Gamal El-Din Ahmed Mokhtar (Egypt)
• 1996 - Mr. T. Funder (Denmark)
• 1995 - Mr. G. Ivanov (Russia)

Photographs of the ceremony are available electronically by e-mail on request.

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