World Maritime University Graduation Ceremony

World Maritime University Graduation Ceremony
4 December 2011
Speech by E.E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization, and
Chancellor, World Maritime University

Excellencies, Representative of the Government of Sweden, Mayor of the City of Malmö, Guests of honour, Permanent Representatives to IMO, Admirals, Secretary-General of BIMCO and Chief of the Executive Board, Secretary-General of the Mission to Seafarers, Representatives of the Japanese Ocean Policy Research Foundation, Governors, President and staff of the University, distinguished guests, families and friends of the Graduands, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Admiral Salerno and Admiral Arce, for your kind words about me and my time at IMO and as Chancellor of this great institution. I enjoyed serving both enormously!

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with the utmost pleasure that we gather here in Malmö, once again, to witness, and participate in, the graduation of another class of young men and women successfully completing their studies at the World Maritime University.

As ever, this year’s roll of honour makes impressive reading, serving, as it does, to demonstrate just how the University has grown – literally, metaphorically and geographically – since its inception.
Today, we turn and devote our attention to the graduands of the class of 2011, for whom this ceremony marks the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. And, for all those associated with the University, this event, once again, provides concrete proof of the success that this unique institution has gradually and painstakingly achieved over the years.

In a short while, we will honour four Ph.D. graduands (three in maritime administration and one in maritime law), along with 104 students graduating from the Malmö programme in maritime affairs – the largest group of Malmö graduates since 2006 – and there are a further 64 graduands from the China programmes (33 from the Dalian and 31 from the Shanghai Maritime Universities). There are also 23 graduands from the Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Insurance, gained by distance learning. All of which, brings the total number of graduates, since the University opened its gates back in the early 1980s, to the very impressive total of 3,242.

Its continuing ability to produce top-quality graduates has brought the World Maritime University well-deserved global recognition for its excellence in maritime training and education. The lofty regard and esteem it enjoys are manifested in the number of candidates of a high calibre, who apply annually to join its ranks.

High-level maritime education and training will become even more important in the future, as the world becomes more complex, more interdependent and more interconnected, and as safety and environmental awareness continue to play a key part in all efforts to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of shipping in the service of international trade and the world economy.

Essential as this may be – and certainly it is – there are, however, significant variations in the capability of individual States to play their part satisfactorily in these efforts.  This is where IMO’s technical co-operation mission, designed to assist developing countries to improve their ability to comply with international rules and standards, comes into play by focusing on human resource development. In delivering on this mission, we place due emphasis on training and institutional capacity building. The World Maritime University is at the apex of our work to achieve these objectives.

Since the University came into being, some 33 years ago, IMO’s Member States have viewed it, and its graduates, as central to the establishment of a global culture that promotes safety and environmental consciousness throughout the maritime industry. That is why the Organization maintains a high level of involvement in every aspect of WMU’s life – from its creation, more than three decades ago, to our continued involvement with the reconstituted University’s Board of Governors and Executive Board.
Ladies and gentlemen, the good work that WMU does is only made possible thanks to a group of very generous donors and supporters in various Governments and certain sectors of the international maritime community.

Deserving particular mention here is IMO itself, which, both last year and this, provided a grant of £250k and has also agreed to ring-fencing a portion of its own technical assistance budget to support the University in the next 2 years. I am very grateful for the donors’ continued financial contributions and assistance in the face of budgetary constraints and competing priorities for scarce resources that Governments face in these turbulent financial times. The list of all those who have assisted the University, and continue doing so, is a long one. There are, however, a few who, even more than the rest, deserve this public acknowledgement and expression of deep appreciation.
Pride of place, as always, is deserved for the Government of Sweden, which steadfastly supports the University in many ways – in kind and morally – not to mention its financial contribution of up to one-third of the University’s annual budget. Without Sweden’s steady stream of support, it is questionable how, in these difficult times, the University would be able to survive.
The City of Malmö has continually stood by the University and its provision of studying and hostel facilities, at considerable cost, has justifiably earned it the gratitude of all concerned – the students, in particular, who enjoy their stay so much in this beautiful town and, when the time comes for them to return home, take with them the fondest of memories of their Alma Mater and the noble and hospitable people of Malmö.
Looking ahead, less than one month ago, the City of Malmö unveiled the design for the University’s new home: the historic Tornhuset in the centre of Malmö, which will be supplemented by an architecturally exciting extension, to provide WMU with the state-of-the-art facilities that will allow the students, faculty and staff to grow, develop and reach their full potential. I look forward very much to the day when the University opens its gates to receive students in this grand, yet functional, facility.

Among the supporters of the University, special mention must be made of the contribution made by China. In July this year, the University opened the WMU Shanghai Office to coordinate and extend its activities, which have already proven very successful through the outreach programme on the campuses in Dalian and Shanghai. The continuing support of the Government of China is greatly welcomed and highly valued.

Among the remaining donors, I wish to mention, in particular, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Nippon Foundation of Japan, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Canada, the Republic of Korea, the Ministry of Transport of Germany, Inmarsat Ltd., the SAFEMED Project of the European Union and the TK Foundation. Thank you all for your tremendous support.

A special mention, with thanks, should also be made of the two Guests of Honour, who have travelled long distances to be with us today, coming from the United States and Argentina respectively. Thank you, gentlemen!
To conclude, I have a few words for those we have come here to honour today.  However, before doing so, I wish to say how pleased I am with the staff running the University.  Under the presidency of Professor Kjerfve, WMU is a well-managed and run institution, staffed by committed and dedicated individuals, who contribute greatly to the success story the University is.  All of them, be they academic or administrative, deserve the recognition of their good services and a warm expression of thanks.  And, now, to the students.

Dear graduands,

This is an occasion, when, you and your families and guests join with dignitaries from the maritime community, the host City of Malmö and the staff of the University to share in the celebration of your achievements – and you can all feel justifiably proud of what you have accomplished here. Studying and working alongside one another for a protracted period of time in a foreign country promotes a special sense of togetherness and of team spirit, and you should cherish this as you are about to move on to new experiences.

The network of friends and colleagues you have established during your time in Malmö will no doubt provide invaluable support, both professional and personal, as you pursue careers within the maritime community. Graduating today, you are about to join a much wider network – you might even call it a family – of this University’s alumni, who are spread throughout the shipping world.

You will be following in illustrious footsteps. Many of your predecessors have returned to become Government ministers, deputy ministers and ambassadors of their countries. Others have pursued career paths that have led to senior positions in shipping companies, regional maritime organizations and national port and harbour authorities. Still more have become educators and senior surveyors. Many have returned to IMO as part of their national delegations. Collectively, they form a unique band of highly trained maritime experts, and you now have the opportunity to swell the ranks of that network and make your own contribution to the goals we all share.

And, so, I congratulate you, once again, graduands of the class of 2011, on your dedication and perseverance and wish you the greatest success as you return to your home countries and respective careers. You are now setting out on a magnificent journey, and I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours. May life be kind to you; may the winds be fair, the tides favourable and the seas calm – and, if none of those are possible, may you have the strength to weather whatever storms life throws in your path: you are well equipped to ride them!

And as to me, nothing will give me greater pleasure than learning that, under the new IMO management, the University continues to strive. I wish you all a Merry Festive Season and a Happy New Year!

Thank you and good luck to you all.