Special Lecture at the International Maritime Organization “Maritime Human Resources Development and its Future”

London, United Kingdom

Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to have this opportunity to speak before you today. In October last year, when Secretary-General Mitropoulos visited Japan, he expressed interest in the activities of The Nippon Foundation, in particular, capacity building and maintenance works in the Malacca Straits. I’m honored that, he gave me this special opportunity to address you here today.

The oceans benefit people in all countries. The oceans are “common heritage of mankind.” They are our common property, our common responsibility.

But, today’s oceans face uncountable problems, maritime accidents, piracy and environmental pollution. These are the problems that challenge not only individual nations but also our global society. In addition, disasters like the recent Sumatran earthquake and tsunami revealed how difficult it would be to coordinate responses across national borders. Sadly, UNCLOS’ ideal of global coordination has yet to be applied as a solution to these issues. In order to deal with these problems, we need experienced and capable personnel.

Unfortunately, however, there is a lack of trained personnel to effectively cope with these challenges, especially on an international basis. Given this lack of human resources, I decided to put serious efforts into capacity building of human resources for the international maritime community.

Allow me to tell you some examples of the programs The Nippon Foundation has conducted so far to this end. Over the years, our support for WMU has included scholarships to over 300 students from 42 countries. Currently, 50 students receive scholarships each year. But I do not think that our offering of scholarship alone would be enough. After graduation, WMU fellows return to their home country and sometime they lose contact with alumni.

Ten years ago, The Nippon Foundation established friends of WMU Japan, an alumni association with an aim to build an international network, connect WMU fellows and enable them to share concerns for ocean and maritime issues.

Whenever I make trips abroad, I spend as much time as possible with WMU alumni. In Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, as well as here in London, I always enjoy meeting with these alumni, who are serving as diplomats, at the IMO, and in other important posts.

When I talk with them, I always feel the strong sense of shared responsibility in tackling common issues we are facing that led them to build this strong network. I am always impressed with how important their international network has become.

More recently, last year, we established three chairs at WMU to help them make the transition to the graduate level. It pleases me to see that WMU, under the leadership of the president, Dr. Laubstein, has recently received the highest evaluation from the European University Association for its remarkable achievement.

Secondly, working with IMO, The Nippon Foundation is supporting the project at International Maritime Law Institute. Recently, developing countries are showing more interest in participating in international conventions and treaties regarding the oceans. However, they are not able to secure a sufficient number of maritime lawyers and maritime administrators. We have therefore established a scholarship program at the IMLI to help developing countries train experts on international maritime law.

We are conducting a similar project for capacity-building partnership with the United Nations. This takes the form of a fellowship for government officials and mid-level professionals from developing countries. Recipients become interns at the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea in New York. They also do research at participating universities.

They receive advanced education and training in this field. We hope to grant 100 fellowships over a five-year period. All these efforts are being made in response to the emerging global needs that require capable and responsible personnel.

Let me give you another example of our projects. We found that maritime universities were not standardizing their Maritime Education and Training, causing discrepancy in skills of seafarers. Such discrepancy could pose an obstacle to safety of navigation. In 2000, The Nippon Foundation established the International Association of Maritime University comprising of 45 institutes around the world to standardize an educational curriculum and improve the safety of navigation. We also encourage them to promote joint research projects among member universities, and enhance their education through the global network.

While we ask IAMU to focus their efforts on technical skills of seafarers, I consider we should not disregard social aspects of problems of seafarers, such as labor issues, human errors and physical and mental health. To deal with these issues from a perspective of social science, last year, we established scholarship programs of the Masters and PhD levels at Cardiff University’s Seafarers International Research Centre. These programs are intended to develop experts on global maritime and seafarers’ issues from a social science perspective.

Finally, I am proud to inform you of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans project. This is a program under which we recently established a chair and scholarship at University of New Hampshire in the US. Its purpose is to train ocean bathymetrists for work on the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans and other detailed maps of the ocean floor.

I am very grateful that Secretary General Mitropoulos gave me this wonderful opportunity to share with you, the projects of The Nippon Foundation in capacity building in the maritime areas.

I strongly believe that the international maritime community requires capable people not only in number but also in quality. I hope our projects are enabling many educational institutions to offer more opportunities and better education to people who will make contributions to the development of the global maritime community.

There is a saying: It takes one year to grow grain, ten years to grow trees, but people need one hundred years to be fostered. I am aware that my journey of capacity building will be a very long one, but I would like to continue my efforts. It is indeed very rewarding to see people grow for the benefits of the global community.

Distinguished delegates, I would like to take an advantage of this opportunity to make two policy proposals.

Firstly, let me focus on the concept of “sustainable development of maritime activities.” To my understanding, “sustainable development of maritime activities” means an international policy framework that enables us to seek the coexistence of the oceans and the mankind. But today, the coexistence is endangered by serious maritime problems in the fields of environment, safety and security. It has been proven that the emission of CO2 and NOX from ships have adverse effects on marine environment.

It is known that substandard vessels endanger life of crew while giving damage to coastal nations. In recent years, we are concerned about the problem of pirates who are active across borders in some regions, taking advantages of the geographical limits of the sovereignty of coastal states.

IMO member states are trying to address these issues. But some of the issues are too difficult to be tackled by unilateral measures of individual governments. The only possible way will be an international cooperation, in which the IMO is expected to play a central role.

IMO is equipped with all the expertise on the maritime issues, and rich in experience. I firmly believe that IMO will be able to work together with member states, thus making the measures more effective and enforceable.

The Nippon Foundation is willing to make further contribution when IMO will take more positive initiative in addressing difficult challenges facing the international maritime community. We are prepared to set sail with you for the sustainable development of maritime activities.

The second proposal is concerned with the safety of the Malacca Straits. 80,000 ships a year traverse the Malacca Straits. This includes container ships connecting Asia and Europe and tankers from the Middle East, bound for Asia. At the stern of these ships fly the flags of Panama, Honduras, Liberia, Greece, and many other countries. Countries from around the world benefit from the Malacca Straits. Malacca is the busiest straits in the world and there are always very high risks of maritime accidents.

To date, The Nippon Foundation has provided financial assistance totaling about 100 million dollars for the emplacement of 45 lighthouses and other navigational aids. Engineers from Japan also visit the Straits to help maintain the navigational aids and train local personnel. We have recently built buoy tender ships for both Indonesia and Malaysia.

Most recently, last June, at my suggestion, my foundation sponsored a conference having high-level representatives from Asian coast guards in Tokyo, to deal on cooperative measures against crimes at sea. From then the Asian coast guards began to move toward sharing information and to build cooperative frameworks.

In this connection, I would like to welcome the initiative of IMO that they will be holding a Malacca Straits Conference in Indonesia this fall. I sincerely expect that the conference will enable the parties concerned to make an important step forward for the safe passage in the Malacca Straits.

When I give thoughts to the Malacca Straits, I always wonder whether it would be realistic to ensure the safety of navigation at such high-risk areas while depending only upon traditional approaches.

To secure the safety of navigation in high-risk areas, I feel the need to reevaluate our traditional thinking that the safety on the seas is always offered free of charge. In high-risk areas where the safety of navigation incurs high costs, we need to examine a new system where the burden should be born not only by the coastal countries but also by the users.

I hope that IMO will exercise its leadership in examining such new system, taking advantages of all the expertise and enthusiasm of its member countries.

My father, the founder of our foundation, Ryoichi Sasakawa, had his philosophy: “the world is one family; all mankind are brothers and sisters.” The family of the mankind is endowed with a very precious asset: our common heritage of the oceans. I hope that all of us will continue to work together to protect and preserve our common heritage to ensure our coexistence with the oceans.