Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization, recently became the first holder of a new award for significant contribution to the ferry industry, the Interferry Person of Distinction. Interferry named Mitropoulos for his "global leadership in highlighting the importance of passenger ship safety". Mitropoulous joined the IMO Secretariat in 1979 and was appointed to the top post in 2004.
The presentation was made by Interferry CEO Len Roueche at IMO headquarters in London on July 31. Mitropoulos was cited as a driving force in the joint IMO/Interferry initiative to improve domestic ferry safety in developing nations. The award also marks his role following the Red Sea disaster in which the Egyptian ferry al-Salam Boccaccio 98 sank with the loss of 1,400 passengers and crew.
In January he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interferry, which has IMO consultative status, on a ten-year plan
to slash fatality levels in ferry operations in developing countries. The project aims to cut the current 1,000+ deaths a year by 90 percent. A pilot scheme in Bangladesh is now under way.
The Red Sea tragedy came less than two weeks after the signing. Mitropoulos visited Cairo and responded to an Egyptian government request for technical assistance by providing an independent consultant to advise the casualty investigation board. He also arranged for another independent consultant to review maritime safety administration systems in Egypt, including crisis management, survey, certification and inspection procedures relating to stability, fire protection systems, life-saving appliances and navigation equipment.
Born in Piraeus, Mr Mitropoulos was a merchant navy officer
and also served in the Hellenic Coast Guard before joining the IMO. He was in the Maritime Safety Division throughout the period when regulations were re-shaped in response to some of the ferry industry's worst disasters - Herald of Free Enterprise, Scandinavian Star and Estonia.