The fourth "Parallel Event" to celebrate World Maritime Day formally and officially outside of the International Maritime Organization's London base was held in Greece on 19 and 20 September, hosted by the Government of the Hellenic Republic.
On 19 September, Athens was the location for a seminar and panel discussion on the theme of IMO: 60 years in the service of shipping, in which leading figures from the maritime community took the opportunity to outline, from their perspective, their views on the past, present and future of IMO and the shipping industry.
On 20 September, the International Memorial to the Wife of the Seafarer was unveiled in the town of Galaxidi, by the Secretary-General of IMO, Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, and Greece's Minister of Mercantile Marine, the Aegean and Island Policy, Mr. Anastasis Papaligouras.
The Athens event, held at the Evgenidion Foundation, was opened by the Prime Minister of Greece, Dr. Kostas Karamanlis, who, in praising the Organization's achievements over six decades, referred to its contribution to the reduction in marine accidents and incidents, its sensitivity over environmental protection issues and its role as a model of multilateral and institutional co-operation. He went on to say that IMO's work demonstrated that international standards - developed, agreed, implemented and enforced universally - are the only effective way to regulate such a diverse and truly international industry as shipping.
Dr. Karamanlis also noted two concerns, the first being the reported reluctance of young people to join the maritime profession, leading to an anticipated serious shortage of qualified officers worldwide, and he pledged Greece's support to IMO in attracting promising young people to, and retaining existing seafarers in, the maritime profession.
The second concern, he said, related to the worldwide efforts to address atmospheric pollution and stem climate change and global warming. "Again here I applaud IMO's efforts to prevent air pollution by reducing sulphur and nitrogen emissions from shipping operations and look forward to IMO achieving similar success when addressing the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. My Government will support IMO's endeavours in this field as well," Dr. Karamanlis said.
IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos, addressing the seminar, noted the significance of the year 2008 for IMO, marking as it does a number of key milestones and anniversaries for the Organization. March 6th was the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the IMO Convention by a conference held in Geneva in 1948 under the auspices of the United Nations; March 17th was the 50th anniversary of that Convention entering into force in 1958; and June saw the 100th session of the IMO Council, the 40-Member executive body of the Organization, which supervises its work between sessions of the Assembly.
In a wide ranging speech, Mr. Papaligouras also addressed the gathering, expressing his country's support for the principles and values of IMO. The Minister of Mercantile Marine underlined the Organization's role as the sole regulator of international shipping and pointed to the broad array of standards it has adopted as proof of its rapid and successful response to the needs of the industry and the demands of the times, particularly in relation to the development and adoption of realistic and workable solutions to issues affecting the human element, the protection of the marine environment, safe transportation by sea and, latterly, the challenge of climate change.
Other speakers were: Mr. Spyros Polemis, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping and President of the International Shipping Federation; Mr. David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation; Mr. Philip Embiricos, President of BIMCO; Mr. Nicky A. Pappadakis, Chairman of INTERCARGO; Mr. Nicholas G. Fistes, Chairman of INTERTANKO; Mr. George A. Gratsos, President of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping; Mr. Nicos D. Efthymiou, President of the Union of Greek Shipowners; and Mr. William Azuh, Chairman of the IMO Club of Maritime Attachés.
In the afternoon, a round-table panel discussion focusing on safety, security, the environment, legal issues, efficiency and technical co-operation was chaired by former Lloyd's List editor Mr. Michael Grey and the participants included: Mr. Neil Ferrer, Chairman, Maritime Safety Committee, IMO; Rear-Admiral Brian M. Salerno, United States Coast Guard; Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou, Chairman, Marine Environment Protection Committee, IMO; Professor Lee-Sik Chai, Chairman, Legal Committee, IMO; Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah, Chairman, Technical Co-operation Committee, IMO; and Mr. Charles Abela, Chairman, Facilitation Committee, IMO.
Mr. Vassilis C. Constantakopoulos, Chairman of INTERMEPA and HELMEPA, also addressed the audience.
Unveiling of International Memorial to the Wife of the Seafarer
On September 20, 2008, IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos and Greece's Minister of Mercantile Marine, the Aegean and Island Policy, Mr. apaligouras, unveiled the International Memorial to the Wife of the Seafarer, aimed at recognizing the contribution of the Wife of the Seafarer to the overall mission of shipping and the welfare of mankind. The Memorial, by Greek sculptor Kostas Ananidas, consists of a bronze statue depicting the wife of a seafarer, accompanied by her two children, waving farewell to her husband who is sailing away.
The ceremony took place in the town of Galaxidi, on the Corinthian Gulf, which has a long maritime tradition. The Memorial that now stands there pays tribute to the fortitude of, and honours, all those anonymous heroines who, when their husbands sail away, are left behind alone to shoulder all the responsibilities of the family; run their households; raise, educate and nurse children; and face, unaided, the problems of loneliness so that their partners in life can direct their undivided attention to their many and complex duties at sea.
Speaking at the unveiling, Mr. Mitropoulos underlined the significance of this long overdue tribute to the Wife of the Seafarer. "We honour all the Wives of Seafarers from all over the world; and, through them, we say a big 'Thank you' to those not present here today - while sending, at the same time, a strong message to their seafarer husbands, wherever they may be around the world, whichever seas they may be sailing in at this moment, that the maritime community as a whole bows before their wives," he said.
He paid a special tribute to the wives of seafarers attending the ceremony from many maritime nations such as China, Denmark, India, Italy, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom - who were joined by fellow seafarers' wives from all over Greece: Andros, Galaxidi, Ithaca, Kassos, Lefkada, Messinia, Oinousses and Vrontados - "all women united with each other by the same strong bond: that of persons who have been nurtured by the sea and matured by its salt water," Mr. Mitropoulos added, thanking all those who had contributed towards a special fund, created two years ago, to meet the cost of the Memorial and the other expenses associated with the ceremony.
Also present at the unveiling were the Vice-Minister of Mercantile Marine, Aegean and Island Policy, Mr. Panos E. Kammenos; the Mayor of Galaxidi, Mr. Drosos Angouras; and the Prefect of Fokida, Mr. Nicos Foussekis; as well as the Commandant of the Hellenic Coast Guard, the Commandants of the Argentine and Italian Coast Guards, the Chief of the Uruguayan Navy and a representative of the Chilean Navy.
The heads of the international shipping organizations, BIMCO, ICS/ISF, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO also attended, as well as the President of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, the Chairman of the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee, the Secretary-General of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation, and local Galaxidiotes.