Blog from IMO Secretary-General

(Top: with HRH the Princess Royal and Christopher Hayman; above, in discussion with Dame Helen Alexander)

14 April 2014

Glittering showcase for the finest in shipping

The Seatrade Awards Dinner (Monday 14 April) was an excellent opportunity to highlight the very best and most far-sighted developments in shipping. This year’s guest of honour was Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal. I had the honour to sit at the top table, together with Her Royal Highness; Dame Helen Alexander, Chairman of the Board of the Port of London Authority, and Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade.

I remarked in my closing speech at the dinner that the Seatrade Awards ceremony has become an important event for the shipping industry and IMO, providing the opportunity to monitor and appreciate initiatives taken by the industry to promote safety and environmental protection. This mechanism was created 25 years ago, to follow the vision of the then IMO Secretary-General, C.P. Srivastava, in the context of outreach to the general public to indicate and highlight the genuine efforts made by the shipping industry to meet the objectives of IMO, as reflected in the motto “Safe, secure and efficient ships on clean oceans”.

I took the opportunity to state my own vision for the activities of IMO, and reiterate the importance of IMO as an institutional framework for a sustainable maritime transportation system. I stressed one of the core values of our activities at IMO: namely, the implementation of global measures under relevant IMO Conventions.

This year’s theme for the World Maritime Day is “IMO conventions; effective implementation” and I emphasized the importance of further discussion at the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its October session, on the concerns raised by the shipping industry about implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention.

I also took the opportunity of the closing remarks to express my sincere appreciation to Her Royal Highness for her strong support for the shipping industry as the Master of Trinity House, and her support for the Mission to Seafarers. I stated that, through her support to the British maritime industry, she also gives her support to international shipping and to the actives of IMO. IMO is fortunate to be hosted by the United Kingdom, whose Royal family – and Her Royal Highness in particular – are such strong supporters of shipping.

In addition, towards the end of the ceremony, I received a cheque for $50,000 as a donation from HE Shaikh Daji Al Khalifa, on behalf of the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY), towards the activities of IMO. I was most grateful for this valuable donation and we will make sure the funds donated will be utilised for our activities in the fields of maritime safety, search and rescue and environmental protection.

This year’s Seatrade Awards ceremony was a splendid event, graced by the presence of Her Royal Highness. I will continue to support this wonderful mechanism to encourage the industry to take good initiatives towards the objectives of IMO.
Koji Sekimizu

(photos: top, with David Jackson and above, with Leona Aglukkaq)

28 March 2014

From the Arctic to the capital

On the way back from Yellowknife to London, I visited Ottawa, the capital of Canada, to meet the Deputy Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Louis Lévesque, together with senior staff members of the Ministry, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Development, Transport Canada and the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

I also had an opportunity to meet the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Marc Grégoire, and to visit the office of Leona Aglukkaq, who, as well as being Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, is also the current Chair of the Arctic Council.

I also met representatives of the Canadian maritime industry involved in Arctic maritime transportation. From them, I learned the history of shipping in northern Canada, and how vital it is, literally, for local communities.

Furthermore, I visited the Canadian Ice Service and received an explanation of its work from its Director, David Jackson. I told him how strongly the service it provides for the maritime community is appreciated.

I had a pleasant meeting with Minister Aglukkaq and thanked her for inviting me to attend the Senior Arctic Officials meeting in Yellowknife.  We exchanged views on various issues surrounding maritime transportation in northern Canada.

I emphasized the importance of the current work being carried out by IMO to establish the mandatory Polar Code this year, and requested further cooperation and collaboration between IMO and the Arctic Council in the years ahead, in order to ensure the development of a sound infrastructure for safe navigation in Arctic waters.

This mission to the Senior Arctic Officials meeting and my visit to Ottawa have provided useful opportunities for me to meet people directly involved in the Arctic Council and to discuss various issues surrounding Arctic navigation.

Koji Sekimizu

27 March 2014

Opening a new page in Arctic collaboration

Canada was freezing. When I arrived at Yellowknife in the evening of 26 March 2014, the ground temperature was minus seventeen Celsius. I was greeted by personnel from the Circumpolar Affairs Division of the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department.

The Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials meeting had already finished its second day and I was invited to join in the social events organized in a snow castle created on the frozen lake. The castle, built for the annual Snow King festival, is made entirely of ice except for the transparent tent-like ceiling built on its thick ice walls, designed to use light from the sky to illuminate the interior. Inside the castle, there is a hall that easily accommodates 100 people and here the meeting participants were enjoying live music played by local people.

After the music, there was a fashion show, with beautiful coats and dresses made from local materials on display. Although I was well protected by my heavy-duty out-door down jacket, which I had used in Antarctica, by the end my feet were nearly frozen by the ice floor of the frozen lake. The temperature inside the castle must have been below minus twenty.

After the events in the castle, we were taken to a restaurant bar for dinner, where a powerful band prompted dancing – as much as anything, to warm our frozen bodies! Having made my contribution to the whirl of dancers, I sneaked out from the warmth of the social gathering to prepare for my speech, arranged for 9 o’clock the following morning, and to recover from my jet lag.

The following day, Thursday, 27 March 2014, I spoke to the meeting on the current status of development of the mandatory Polar Code that is in the final stages of preparation at IMO. It is expected to be adopted before the end of this year, and to become effective at the beginning of 2017.

My main message was that, although the Polar Code could be adopted soon, further work will be necessary in order to ensure its proper implementation and to establish a support system, such as infrastructure development including navigational charts, search and rescue arrangements and pollution preparedness. I stated clearly that, in the coming years, IMO and the Arctic Council must work together for further cooperation and collaboration. The text of my speech will be posted on the IMO website (

The current Director of the Arctic Council Secretariat is Magnús Jóhannesson of Iceland. I have worked closely with him in the past, when I was the Administrative Secretary of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) and he was a delegate from Iceland to IMO meetings. He is a strong supporter of IMO and I was pleased that he was in his current role when I approached the Arctic Council to explore meaningful collaboration. I am sure that, together, we can strengthen future cooperation between IMO and the Arctic Council in the field of navigation and maritime activities in the Arctic Ocean.

This mission to the Senior Arctic Officials meeting was important for IMO. I have made engagement with the Arctic Council an important priority since I took up my role as Secretary-General in 2012 and have put considerable time and effort into it. I approached the Arctic Council to seek my participation in its official meetings before we adopt the Polar Code, because I believe it is essential for the wider maritime community to closely engage with the Arctic Council.

While approaching the Arctic Council, I spoke to the Government of the Russian Federation about the possibility of experiencing navigation in the Northern Sea Route at first hand. I am really grateful to the Russian Government for arranging my voyage in Arctic waters last summer and for the substantial support they provided. I was also invited to experience winter navigation in the Gulf of Finland, by the Government of Finland. I am grateful to numerous supporters within the Arctic Council member States and I am truly appreciative of the kind formal invitation by the current Chair of the Arctic Council, Ms. Leona Aglukkaq , Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, with whom I have a planned meeting, on 28 March, in Ottawa.

I think that my mission marks a significant step forward and, from the responses of the Senior Officials at the meeting, I think we have effectively opened a new page of collaboration and cooperation between IMO and the Arctic Council.

Koji Sekimizu, Ottawa

4 March 2014

Visit to the Hong Kong Observatory 

Today I am in Hong Kong, China, having been invited by the Hong Kong Government. Yesterday, I called on the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung and the Director of Marine, Mr Michael Wong, Marine Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and we exchanged views on current priority issues on the agenda of IMO.

Today, I was introduced to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and visited the Hong Kong Observatory, which has a history of continuous provision of meteorological information to the maritime community over the last 130 years.

My discussion with Director of the Observatory, Shun Chi-ming, FRMetS, JP, who is President of the Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Chair of the Hong Kong Meteorological Society, was useful and covered the further cooperation between WMO and IMO in Arctic waters and the promotion of vessel observatory stations onboard merchant ships. Information collected from the vessel observatory stations is extremely useful in weather forecasting and we agreed to explore any possibility of further cooperation in the field of weather reporting from ships.

Tomorrow, I plan to visit the Maritime Services Training Institute of the Vocational Training Council and will have meetings with the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operation Association and the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association.

Maritime heritage and the story of John Manjiro


29 January 2014

Following my last blog in October last year on the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in Peru, I was traveling ahead of the IMO Assembly, held from 25 November to 4 December 2013.

During my travels, I attended the Maritime Cyprus 2013 Conference, the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping Celebrations and the Russian-Danish Seminar on Arctic Shipping in St. Petersburg, the Kobe University 10th anniversary Event for the Maritime Science Faculty, the Tokyo MoU 20th Anniversary Event in Tokyo, the NAMEPA World Maritime Day Observance in New York, the CSR Symposium arranged by WMU and BIMCO in Helsingør, Denmark and  finally the Graduation Ceremony at the World Maritime University in Malmo.

During this busy period, I also visited the Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping in St Petersburg, Russia,  where I  addressed the cadets, and in the United States, I visited the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum in Connecticut as well as the Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

At the Mystic Seaport, I was greeted by its President, Steve White, and toured the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, which has recently undergone a comprehensive restoration and preservation project and the Museum’s Collection Research Centre.

I discussed with the Museum staff about the importance of our maritime heritage and our work to preserve maritime assets. IMO should explore the possibility of promoting the maritime heritage of Member States. In this context, I believe that the IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event would offer a wonderful opportunity to highlight the maritime heritage of the host country in addition to promoting each year’s World Maritime Day Theme adopted by the IMO Council. If we could start highlighting the maritime heritage of the host country and continue this for decades, we would eventually develop a good catalogue of maritime heritage spots in the world compiled by IMO. I am personally interested in this idea and would like to seek supporters.

Finally, my travel brought me to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where I visited the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House.I recently learned that the house in which Nakahama Manjiro stayed some 170 years ago had been preserved by people in Fairhaven and the Whitfield and Nakahama families, supported by Dr Hinohara of Japan.

In the context of the maritime heritage, I would like to share the story of Manjiro.

Nakahama Manjiro was rescued from a shipwreck by the Captain of a whaling ship, Captain Whitfield, and brought to the United States, where he was educated in Fairhaven and trained as a seafarer for whaling ships. This is truly a remarkable story and when I attented the 30th anniversary of the World Maritime University at the City Hall of Malmö, I spoke about Maijiro’s extraordinary life, and his involvement in the process of the  opening of Japan and the first Japanese mission to the United States for ratification of the US-Japan Treaty Instrument. Below is the part of my dinner speech, slightly edited, describing the story of Manjiro.

  “In  1841,  173 years ago,  a Japanese fishing vessel was shipwrecked at an island in the Pacific ocean and a boy called Manjiro , aged 14, survived. He was rescued by Capt. Whitfield on the whaling ship John Howland, because they came to the island to collect sea birds’ eggs. The boy was among four fishermen rescued and, except Manjiro, they all remained in Hawaii.

Capt. Whitfield found something very bright in Manjiro, and took him and returned to Fairhaven in Massachusetts with Manjiro, two years later. At that time, Manjiro was 16 years old.

Captain Whitfield gave basic education to Manjiro in Fairhaven. He was the first Japanese trained in US as a seafarer, on board the whaling ship Franklin. In 1848, at age 21, Manjiro gained the rank of Harpooner and in 1849, at age 22, he went to the California gold rush, earned a small amount of gold, enough to buy a small boat, Adventure, and in 1851, Manjiro returned to Japan.

At that time, Japan was closed under Tokugawa Shougun Government and Manjiro was investigated for nearly one year against the charge of having breached national law and having visited foreign countries, but he was forgiven,  escaped a death sentence and even became Samurai class, serving the Tokugawa Government.

In 1853, the American Commodore Perry came to Tokyo Bay and in 1854, the first Japan US Peace Treaty was signed. Manjiro’s knowledge about US society and advanced technology played a major contributing factor in the decision to open Japan to the United States.

In 1854, Manjiro translated Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, and in 1856, Manjiro built a western style sailing ship and in 1857, he prepared a Practical English Guide for Japanese.

What is a truly remarkable thing was that in 1860, when Manjiro was 33, he navigated through the Pacific Ocean on board  Kanrinmaru to send the first Japanese embassy to the United States for the ratification of the first Treaty. Only Manjiro in Japan could have done that.

After the 1868 Meiji restoration, Manjiro became a Professor at the University of Tokyo and contributed to the process of modernization and industrialization of Japan.

Captain Whitfield’s ability to see the potential and brightness in a 14 year old Japanese boy; Manjiro’s passion and courage to explore the new world and his desire to learn something from the advanced country, the United States, are all essential parts of this remarkable story.

The willingness and the kindness and generosity of Capt. Whitfield to arrange education in for Manjiro is very close to hearts of anybody who is involved in education and capacity building, including all of us l gathering here tonight to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the World Maritime University.”



Photo: Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House

Manjiro Nakahama and Captain Willam H. Whitfield