Presentation of the International Maritime Prize for 2012 to Dr. T. A. Mensah

Thursday, 21 November 2013 at 5.45 p.m.
Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Excellencies, Chairman of Council, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
It gives me great pleasure to 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 32 years ago.
And it gives me even greater pleasure to introduce the winner of the Prize for 2012, Dr. Thomas Mensah. I also extend a warm welcome to Dr. Mensah’s family and friends, here present with us tonight.
Thomas Mensah began his senior education at the University of Ghana, from where he graduated in 1956.
His legal education began at the University of London, from where he gained an LLB degree in 1959. He subsequently won a Master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale University Law School in the United States of America.
Dr. Mensah then embarked on a truly international legal career, first working as Associate Legal Officer, at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna from 1965 to 1966 before joining the IMO Secretariat, in London, in 1968, as Director of the Legal Office. In 1981, he was designated Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division, posts which he held until 1990. He was also a visiting Professor of the World Maritime University (WMU), in Malmö, Sweden, from 1981 to 1990.
Dr. Mensah’s 22 years at IMO coincided with a highly productive period for the Organization and for the development of international maritime law. To mention some of the most notable achievements in that period, on legal subjects, the Civil Liability Convention, the FUND Convention, the Athens Convention and the SUA treaties were adopted; on safety of navigation, the TONNAGE Convention, COLREG, the SOLAS Convention, the STCW Convention and the SAR Convention were adopted; on protection of the marine environment, the London Convention, MARPOL 73/78, and the 1990 OPRC Convention were adopted. Importantly, the tacit amendment procedure was devised, which made it possible for IMO treaty instruments to be more in keeping with the development of technological advances and social needs and which expedited the entry into force of amendments. During the same period of time, the Secretariat of IMO, particularly Dr. Mensah, contributed to the development of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the United Nations, and ensured that the elaboration of IMO instruments conformed with the basic principles guiding the elaboration of that convention.
On leaving IMO, Dr. Mensah became Special Advisor on Environmental Law and Institutions, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, from 1991 to 1992. He then became Cleveringa Professor of Law, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands, from 1993 to 1994. Dr. Mensah then moved to the United States where he was Professor and Director, Law of the Sea Institute, University of Hawaii, from 1993 to 1995.
In 1996, having served as Ghana’s first High Commissioner to South Africa for just a year, he was elected to serve as a judge at the newly-established International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany. His performance and achievements were recognized by the 21 judges of the Tribunal when they elected him as the first President of ITLOS.
His numerous academic and civil honours include:
• the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, in 2006;
• the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 2007;
• an honorary PhD from the World Maritime University in Sweden, in 2007; and
• the Onassis Distinguished Scholar Award from the Rhodes Academy of Oceans Law and Policy, Greece, in 2008.
He was also inducted into the maritime hall of fame in New York by the former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in 1998.
In nominating Dr. Mensah, Ghana drew attention to his long and distinguished career in international maritime affairs. He is universally acknowledged as a specialist in public international law, the law of treaties, shipping law, the law of the sea and international environmental law.
Before affording myself the great pleasure of presenting the International Maritime Prize for 2012 to Dr. Mensah, I would like to invite the Honourable Mrs. Dzifa Attivor, Minister for Transport of the Republic of Ghana, to address the meeting.