50th Anniversary Ceremony of Vietnam Maritime University

Hai Phong, Vietnam

It is a great honor for me to be here with you, to celebrate Vietnam Maritime University’s 50th anniversary.

Vietnam’s geography is very similar to Japan’s. It is long from north to south. More importantly, it has a beautiful coastline and, like Japan, is very reliant on the sea.

The ocean has played a great role in Japan’s economic growth. It has been vital in the areas of commerce, communication, trade and natural resources. Post-war Japan’s manufacturing industry and maritime transport have been like twin engines, driving our economy to its present level. Maritime society and the maritime industry have played complimentary roles throughout this period.

Today’s Vietnam, on the other hand, is growing by 7% per year. The annual growth of its industrial production is in the double-digits. In Asia, its momentum is second only to China. However, if I may be frank, it needs to put more effort into developing its maritime transport industry. The training of qualified seafarers continues to be central to the development of the maritime industry. This industry, in combination with the nation’s excellent manufacturing sector, is key for Vietnam.

Vietnam Maritime University has produced more than eighteen thousand maritime professionals over the past fifty years. I sincerely respect your great enthusiasm and effort in the development of maritime education, in spite of the tremendous ordeals which have beset the country in that time.

Without maritime transportation, half of the world would freeze and the other half would starve. This reason alone conveys the importance of seafarers—the people who work on the frontlines of maritime transport.

Hence, the worldwide shortage of capable seafarers has become a critical problem. It is said there will be a shortage of more than 27,000 officers by the year 2015.

The Far East and Southeast Asia provide about 40% of the world’s seafarers. The populations of merchant marine seafarers are ageing in countries that have traditionally lead the field. What this means is that in the near future, almost all seafarers in their prime of life will be from Asia. Thanks to this fact, Asia, and Vietnam in particular, have huge potential for supplying internationally qualified officers. This is due to the country’s rapid economic development and its people’s hard-working character. Therefore, I am sure there are high expectations of Vietnam Maritime University. For it to nurture highly-qualified teachers. For it to review its curriculum to meet changing needs. And for it to introduce innovations aimed at national development and prosperity, as well as at realizing the country’s full potential to supply seafarers.

At present, The Nippon Foundation is promoting human resource development and networking projects in the maritime sector. The Foundation is nurturing personnel for the international maritime community. Today, let me introduce two important programs through which we may be able to cooperate with Vietnam Maritime University.

Our support for the World Maritime University is one of the most basic parts of our long-term program to maintain and improve the overall quality of the maritime community.

WMU is a graduate school founded in 1983 in the city of Malmo, Sweden. There, we have established a fellowship which has produced more than 300 fellows from 42 countries. Further, its alumni network has become a useful forum in which to discuss trans-border issues in the marine field. WMU has received 18 fellows from Vietnam. Three of them are currently teaching here at your school. In fact, your president, Dr. Uy was one particularly excellent scholar.

Another program that we helped to create in 1999 is the International Association of Maritime Universities. IAMU provides a forum for resolving common issues involving maritime universities around the world. Presently, the association is made up of 47 of these universities. Thanks to this network, member universities are rapidly expanding their activities: promoting the exchange of academic knowledge, developing a common curriculum, and providing opportunities for exchange among teachers and students. Many innovative programs are being accelerated thanks to this network. Programs which enrich the teachers and students at maritime universities. Your university joined this association in 2004, and we hope you will use it well as you develop your potential. Use it to create international networks and to further develop your seafarers in ways that meet modern demands.

In recent years, the maritime transport world has come to face numberless problems, from security-related issues such as piracy, to marine pollution. To cope with these issues and on-going changes, capable and experienced seafarers are required. It is obvious that members of the global maritime community must take up this challenge, not on a national basis, but in full partnership with other nations. Central to this is the development of skilled seafarers–the people who support our global community at its most basic levels. Marine safety and the preservation of the global environment should be recognized as one of humankind’s common projects.

Last June, the IMO invited me to speak to delegations from around the world. I used that chance to propose a new concept: “the sustainable development of maritime activities.”

This concept is a framework for co-existence between the oceans and mankind. To achieve such co-existence, highly-skilled human resources need to be developed. These people will then effectively address the many difficult problems in this field. But this process will take time.

To supply the human resources needed by the maritime community, we need to move away from conventional notions. Away from the idea that human resource education simply consists of training seamen in the physical and social sciences. Rather, through professional education, we need to create seafarers who understand the marine environment, maritime administration and policies, international law, and safety management. This will be key to the development of Vietnam Maritime University. It is your responsibility to adapt, developing flexible human resources who will contribute to the global maritime community.

As I mentioned, the training of seafarers is a basis for Vietnam’s own economic growth. However, the international maritime community in general, more than ever, needs capable personnel. As a university that is fostering global human resources in the maritime field, Vietnam Maritime University is expected to turn out many leaders. Leaders who will not only serve Vietnam, but the international maritime community as a whole. We intend to support your activities through programs involving WMU and IAMU.

So today, Vietnam Maritime University is beginning a new voyage. One which will be very different from the past 50 years. One on which you will meet many new people. One on which you will acquire much new knowledge. And one which will take you beyond your horizon to a wonderful port of call. We wish you a very successful and fruitful voyage.