World Maritime University 25th Anniversary: Symposium

Malmö, Sweden

Secretary-General Mitropoulos, President Dr. Laubstein, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am honored to be here today to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the World Maritime University. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all of you, especially Secretary-General Mitropoulos of the International Maritime Organization, President Dr. Laubstein of the World Maritime University, the many scientists in attendance, the Swedish government, the city of Malmö, the administration office, and the students who have worked so diligently to make this symposium a success.

As you know, the world economy is expanding because of unprecedented production and consumption. The global population was 2.5 billion in the mid-20th century, but today stands at 6.5 billion. It is expected to exceed 10 billion by 2050. As a result, our land-based resources are reaching their limit, and we are looking more and more to our oceans for water, food and other necessities. It is no longer an exaggeration to say that the oceans will determine the survival of the human race. However, the burden on the oceans is increasing, and it has become clear that they have a limit.

Unfortunately, most people do not have much interest in the oceans, because we have evolved on land. However, with the many problems we now face, we can no longer afford to be ignorant of the oceans. It is vital to seek out whatever wisdom and knowledge can be found. Now is the time to think about how we relate to the oceans, from the viewpoint of the oceans. 

It is extremely significant that the WMU is hosting this symposium on climate change and maritime society. The university is well known for developing maritime human resources to a high level. WMU has long educated maritime leaders. It has promoted the latest research, and made valuable contributions through the efforts of its graduates and other people related to the university. It has given special consideration to both global and local viewpoints. These achievements, together with the university’s international network, will no doubt continue to produce significant results. I firmly believe that it is WMU’s duty as the only university established by the IMO, to not simply look to its previous success, but to continue to work for a better future by continuing to solve environmental problems related to the oceans.

Science has progressed rapidly. It has generated many new technologies, conveniences, and economic affluence. These benefits include those brought about by the development of maritime society. However, at the same time, specialized technology is having a serious impact on our complex global environment. To approach global environmental problems, we have limited our discussion to the oceans. This is no longer sufficient.

Global environmental problems are becoming the major problems of the 21st century. It is thus vital to link many academic fields, such as politics, economics, law, biology and engineering, as well as industry, NGOs, and governments. To achieve this, we must develop connections between individuals.

Society today, too often neglects fundamental things such as nature and individual lives. Spiritual richness is disappearing in exchange for material wealth. Today’s development is destroying the richness of nature and culture that has been handed down to us through the generations. We no longer take responsibility for conservation, and leave all of our problems to the next generation.

What can we do about this? I believe that one important key is to build networks that transcend boundaries. Networks that are based on a maritime viewpoint. The challenge of building bridges is becoming more and more rare because of specialization in the academic and industrial worlds. However, it is critical.

Our first step should be to encourage collaboration among different fields. Eventually, this will become part of the maritime viewpoint. The World Maritime University has educated many maritime specialists and has its own global maritime network. I firmly believe that it has the potential to solve both global environmental problems and our complicated marine problems. It can do this by using its maritime viewpoint as it builds connections beyond academic boundaries.

Many global problems cannot be addressed using the values that we have fostered until now. The issues that we are now facing can only be solved by persistent, thoughtful activities based on human connections. Needless to say, these links must always be transparent and open.

One of The Nippon Foundation’s programs develops leaders who can contribute to the common interests of people in contemporary society, regardless of differences between countries, religions, and races. This program started in 1987, and today we offer scholarships at 68 institutions in 44 countries. We have also established an international network of more than ten thousand of these scholarship recipients. In Sweden, The Nippon Foundation provides scholarships at Uppsala University, which has given birth to many Nobel Prize winners and world leaders.

It is my greatest wish for WMU to cooperate with those in other fields, and to actively use The Nippon Foundation’s human resource network, in bringing the maritime perspective to the solving of the world’s problems. If people from diverse fields unite and cooperate in solving the problems related to the ocean, they will find clues to the solution of other global environmental problems. This will gradually change the world for the better.

It is my hope that this point will be openly discussed by the IMO, by the WMU, and by the experts who are here today. The Nippon Foundation is willing to provide more support than ever before, if the WMU aims to make this 25th anniversary a new beginning, further enhancing its activities, developing vital human resources, and fostering the knowledge and the wisdom to tackle our many problems transparently and openly.