On his return from a one-day trip to Cairo in the aftermath of the tragic loss of the ferry al-Salam Boccaccio 98, IMO Secretary General
Efthimios E. Mitropoulos explained the purpose of his mission as follows: "first, to demonstrate the solidarity and compassion of the IMO membership to the people and Government of Egypt and those of other nations affected (in particular to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims of the tragic accident) and to provide moral support at the heavy loss of life suffered; and, secondly, to assist the investigation of the accident by facilitating the provision, through IMO's technical co-operation programme, of independent technical expertise and advice."
Mitropoulos added that this assistance was intended to ensure that the outcome of the investigation would not only identify, beyond any doubt, what caused the accident, but would also identify what lessons, if any, might be learnt so that, through the IMO system, prompt and expeditious action was taken to prevent similar accidents happening in the future.
During the visit, Mitropoulos met, inter alia
, with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, and the Egyptian Transport Minister, Mr. Mohamed Mansour, and other officials as well as the Panamanian Ambassador to Egypt, Jorge Ramón Valdés Charris and the Panamanian experts nominated to assist in the investigation.
Mitropoulos expressed his appreciation to the Government of Egypt and the Government of Panama, as the flag State, for their co-operation with IMO and their willingness to co-operate with each other and any other Government with a substantial interest in the case, in the joint casualty investigation.
Mitropoulos stressed the need for the investigation to be as thorough and transparent as possible and be characterized by high standards of integrity - a statement, which was endorsed by the representatives of both Egypt and Panama.
"I look forward to a speedy completion of the investigation and to receiving its report, including its conclusions and recommendations, in good time, so that any remedial action which may need to be taken from IMO's perspective is taken without delay to the benefit of the international maritime community and all those who go down to sea in ships," he said. "We owe this to the memory of the innocent victims of the ill-fated ship and their families, who have the right to know what caused the accident which deprived them of their loved ones."
Mitropoulos paid tribute to those who participated in the search and rescue operation for their efforts under adverse weather conditions. "Once again, I express the deep condolences and profound sympathy of all the IMO Members, the Secretariat and my own personal sentiments of sorrow, grief and compassion to the families of those lost in the accident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them in these dire times."