Inaugural Event for the New World Maritime University Building

Malmo, Sweden

Today, WMU will embark on a new era. Congratulations to IMO Secretary-General Mr. Koji Sekimizu and the entire IMO delegates as well as the WMU community on the inauguration of this new campus and the welcoming of the new President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry.

It is wonderful to be back in Malmo and an honor to be a part of this memorable occasion along with many longtime supporters of the WMU including the city of Malmo and the government of Sweden.

I am delighted that this hall has been kindly named “the Sasakawa Auditorium”. Looking back on the passage that our two organizations have taken together in the last three decades, I am amazed at how far we have come.

IMO launched the World Maritime University as a training institute in 1983. It was a time when the presence and role of developing countries in the international maritime community were rapidly increasing. However, they did not have enough qualified professionals who could assume key roles in their countries’ maritime affairs. WMU was established with a mission to address this pressing need.

It was around this time that The Nippon Foundation started its support to WMU. Over the three decades, our scholarship program has generated close to 550 fellows from over 60 countries around the world. We are very proud that some of them are now playing active roles in their countries as executive officers of maritime administrative agencies and presidents of maritime universities.

Our support started in the way of scholarships but we have also been supporting to enhance the WMU’s faculty and enrich its curriculum.

When we turn our eyes to the international community, the world has changed significantly over the last three decades. The world population has risen considerably and with the rapid expansion of developing countries, the global economy has experienced exponential growth. But at the same time, this has placed a burden of unprecedented magnitude on our environment.

We are at a critical point. If no effective measures are taken against the current problems facing the oceanic environment, human beings will no longer be able to sustain its economic activities, much less its existence.

In terms of the marine environment, the IMO, maritime industries and other stakeholders have been taking various measures to reduce its negative impact on the oceans and seas, but I am afraid the levels of cross-sector collaborations have been insufficient to lead to any sustainable solutions.

On this special occasion, as World Maritime University celebrates the inauguration of its new facilities and welcomes its new president, I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts about the future of WMU.

This year, under the initiative of Secretary-General Sekimizu, the Study on the Financial Sustainability of WMU was released. The report stated various strategies for WMU going forward. Most notably, the need for WMU to expand its scope to include ocean-related matters and to strengthen its research functions for maritime policy and ocean subjects and we welcome this shift!!

30 years ago, this was a place that provided high-level training. Over the years, the faculty has been enhanced, the curriculum has been enriched, and WMU has matured into an international post-graduate institution specialized in maritime affairs. This has enabled WMU to gain prestige within the maritime industry and attract top students from around the world.

This has been steady progress up to now and I do not want WMU to stop here. It is my wish for WMU to keep moving forward to establish itself as an educational and research institution that can address ocean issues from not just the maritime but the greater oceanic field.

To allow you to get a better idea of what I mean by this, I would like to share a unique program that The Nippon Foundation started in 2011. This program was started to research ways to halt depleting fish resources. In this program, we not only have fisheries experts taking part, although they are the main players, but also experts from multidisciplinary fields such as climate change, ocean policy, marine biodiversity and international oceans law, marine resource economics.

In order to compile such a diverse group, we partnered with state of the art departments in six universities—University of British Columbia, Princeton, Cambridge, Stockholm, Utrecht and Duke. The program name is Nereus. We named it after the marine deity of Greek Mythology known for his powers to predict the future. We currently have 15 experts working on 30 projects who are harnessing their consolidated scientific knowledge and wisdom to predict the state of the global ocean in year 2050.

We are very much excited about this groundbreaking initiative, but at the same time, we have come to a severe realization that at present state, the only means to address global ocean issues with a multidisciplinary approach is by integrating experts who are scattered in various institutions around the world.

It is my ambition that there will come a day when an educational research institution will emerge that will function as a place where all kinds of experts in the marine field can work together to address the problems of the oceans and establish standards for better ocean management.

I believe that WMU holds that potential. And we are prepared to offer support. As the first step towards this new challenge, The Nippon Foundation would like to announce the following.

First, we pledge 3 million US dollars in annual support for the next 10 years, for the existing fellowship program and enhancement of The Nippon Foundation Chair.

Second, we are prepared to set up a special endowment fund worth 100 million USD. If this can be arranged, this Nippon Foundation-WMU Ocean Fund (name is tentative) will support WMU to establish itself as first, an ocean and maritime research institution which engages in multidisciplinary scientific research in the marine field; and second, an educational institution that generates human resources who have the capacity to address ocean issues with a multidisciplinary approach.

I think we all know that we are probably at a critical point in human history. But we also know that this is not the first time that humanity has faced such pressing challenges. Looking at history, our ancestors confronted them courageously and these efforts have enabled us to all be here today.

Now it is our turn. All of us are part of the Ocean Community. Let us all do our part and work together to overcome these challenges to protect the oceans and seas for future generations.