World Maritime University Sasakawa Fellows’ visit to The Nippon Foundation

Tokyo, Japan

I would like to express a heartfelt welcome to Japan to all of you. I have been looking forward to meeting you. I receive so many letters from scholars and fellows that unfortunately I am not able to respond to each one individually, and would like to take this opportunity to both apologize for this, and to say a warm thank you.

There are many scholarships around the world. However, in most cases the relationship ends when the student graduates. I believe that our WMU scholarships are very unique in that our relationship continues even after graduation.

There are more than 30,000 alumni of The Nippon Foundation’s scholarship and fellowship programs. Roughly 300 of these are WMU graduates, and are building a strong maritime network together.

I work overseas for roughly a third of the year, and no matter which country I visit, the first thing I want to do is meet with WMU fellows. In fact, when I recently traveled to Mongolia on business I met that nation’s only Sasakawa fellow.

Although some graduates are today working in non-maritime fields, I hope that they will still feel free to remain a part of the fellows network. For my part, I would very much like to remain in touch with program fellows throughout my life.

I am sure that you have all made many friends since starting school. I hope all of you will build strong relations not just with your classmates in the 2008 class but also with those who will enter the program in the future and those who have already graduated.

On a different note, in recent years I have been working to bring the attention of the world to the issue of ownership of the sea. In the 17th century, Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) defined “Mare liberum,” calling for limitless freedom of the seas. However, as you know, we have come to understand the sea’s limitations, in terms of both resources and environment. My point is that the protection of the marine environment and the safety of Maritime transportation are too costly to be entrusted to individual countries, treaties and laws. In this regard, I am continuing to advocate for a loose alliance between a wide range of stakeholders, including maritime nations, ocean shipping companies and others.

For years, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has discussed safety and environmental protection in such areas as the Malacca and Singapore Straits. However, the shipping industry has taken the attitude that such protection should be free, and today no member of the industry is in a position to object to calls to fulfill its corporate social responsibility (CSR). From September 4 to 6, I attended the Singapore Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: Enhancing Safety, Security, and Environmental Protection. In addition to the three littoral nations, 50 user nations, including Japan, China and South Korea, also took part. In this meeting, the initiatives of The Nippon Foundation met with strong approval.

I hope all of you can appreciate how important it is to introduce new ideas in maritime society, with its long traditions. Adopting a new methodology that treats the oceans as a common resource, shared by the world, surpassing national boundaries, I hope all of you will work to solve the maritime issues of the future.

With all of your hard work, and the efforts of the university authorities, the WMU’s reputation is growing ever stronger. I hope you will feel pride in being able to study at WMU and that each of you will both contribute to maritime society and play an active role in the WMU network.