Chinese Sasakawa Fellows Shanghai Forum
It is an honor to stand here today before so many individuals from the marine transport sector, as well as representatives from the responsible government departments. I am also happy to be able to address the many hopeful students who are diligently preparing themselves for their future.
My journey here began with a visit from President Yu to Japan last September, when he informed be that a wonderful forum was being planned at his university, and graciously invited me to attend. The forum has indeed proved to be an excellent one, thanks to the efforts of Professors Gao and Fang and the university community.
It was a pleasant surprise yesterday, on reviewing the roles of WMU graduates, to learn of the great variety of fields to which they are now contributing. I was even more impressed, in talking with the graduates, to learn directly from them of their experiences in these fields, and came away pleased at learning of the great strides that the various Asian countries, especially China, have made in the maritime transport industry. However, viewed from a global perspective, I think we must at the same time admit a continuing lack of trained personnel from Asia.
While systemization of the rules governing the world’s maritime transport is carried out mainly by the IMO, given the number and economic strength of Asian states I believe we should make our voice heard more in the international community. To do this effectively however, capacity building is indispensable.
In the international community, the concept of ocean governance has gained wide acceptance in recent years. Against this background, maritime transport is being called on to do more than in the past, when it was sufficient to navigate vessels to their destinations in safety. Now, however, we are being asked to make extra efforts. Navigation safety is of course still required, but we must also work to secure highly qualified seafarers to improve safety in all aspects. There are also the problems of piracy and terrorism at sea, as well as marine pollution, including not only oil spills but a new threat to ecosystems in the form of the transport and release of ballast water. In facing these and a variety of other challenges that will no doubt arise in the future, the most important response we can now make is to increase our efforts in capacity building.
As a response to these needs, two hundred and eighty recipients of scholarships provided by our foundation have now graduated from the World Maritime University. As these Fellows currently hold positions of responsibility in countries around the world, many now are participants in debates at the Assembly of the IMO. Also, our foundation helped organize and continues to support the activities of the International Association of Maritime Universities, in which Shanghai Maritime University participates, to raise the competence of the world’s seafarers. The IAMU Annual General Assembly is to be held this year in Tasmania, Australia. Our foundation also provides scholarships at the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta and the Seafarers International Research Center at Cardiff University in Wales. In addition to support for capacity building at universities, it is our hope that networks of graduates who have benefited from these programs can be formed to provide them with a frank and friendly forum for discussion. To all the youth gathered here today, I urge you to seek out such opportunities as these and accept the challenge to develop your potential to its fullest.
I would like now to say a few words about the Malacca Straits, an area of great interest to both Japan and China. The scourges of piracy and armed robbery at sea present serious threats to this area, as does the possibility of a major oil spill resulting from an accident. In just the last few days, I was happy to read news that China is prepared to make contributions towards maintenance of safety in the Malacca Straits. I have personal experience of traversing these busy Straits, and so am not surprised to learn that more that 600 vessels pass through them daily. The era when the Straits were considered high seas and traversed freely as a matter of course is at an end. With the increase of ship traffic, piracy, and marine pollution, this area is now one of the most vulnerable in the world. In fact, given the number of 150,000 DWT to 200,000 DWT tankers passing through the Straits, it is surprising that no major accidents have occurred to date. Should there be such an accident, making the Straits impassable, the alternate route would be through the Lombok Straights, necessitating at least three extra days of fuel costs. The larger view of protecting our economic stability must be kept in mind when we consider the importance of maintaining security in the Malacca Straits. I understand that almost 70% of China’s maritime transport now passes through the Straits, and so can appreciate the Chinese government’s great interest in this area.
The Nippon Foundation has devoted 35 years to the safety of the Malacca Straits, providing Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore with buoy tender ships, human resources, and oil-spill response equipment. In return, these three countries have done their best to maintain safe navigation conditions in the Straits, which benefits China and Japan, as well as Korea. As we three countries have benefited, I have long spoken of the need for a venue where we could engage consultation with the three Littoral States. I therefore am appreciative of China’s willingness to join in this positive approach.
The importance of China-Japan relations is shown by the fact that China’s second largest provider of goods is Japan, while China is Japan’s largest. But I would like the students gathered here today to know that the peoples of both countries are linked by cooperation in many areas, not just in matters of trade. Whether the exchanges and cooperation taking place in the maritime field sufficiently reflect the extent of our trade relations, however, is a question which deserves some reflection. Although relations at the university, administrative, and corporate levels should continue to be improved, I believe we are long overdue for reform of China-Japan relations in general.
Human beings have an unfortunate tendency; in good times to believe that things will continue to improve, and in bad times they think that they will only get worse. Instead, in the good times, I believe we should think of how to respond when they turn bad, and in bad times how to make them better.
In maritime society, it is important that there be frank exchanges of ideas between our two countries. On the international scene, with the IMO at the center, Europe and America continue to play a dominant role in decision making. It is my hope however that Asian concerns will be better reflected in the future. Toward this end, I am happy that The Nippon Foundation can contribute to the further development of China-Japan exchange in the maritime field.