The election of Efthimios Mitropoulos
of Greece to the post of Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization
was confirmed on November 27 to appoint Mitropoulos. He will take up office on the retirement of the incumbent, William O'Neil
of Canada, at the end of this year.
In a wide-ranging acceptance speech to the Assembly, Mr Mitropoulos spoke of the challenges that lie ahead for the Organization. "While our prime duty will be to act proactively to ensure that accidents do not happen in the first place," he said, "our work should also be directed towards ensuring that, once an accident has taken place, the system is there to minimize its impact on human lives, property and the environment."
Mitropoulos emphasized the need for change within IMO, referring to the "winds of change" blowing through the maritime world and through the Organization itself, and pledged himself to understanding and interpreting the message borne by those winds. He said, "I believe in the necessity of change, not as a proof of failure but as an indication that this is a vibrant Organization, full of energy and determination to adjust to the changing winds while continuing to sail in search of even calmer seas and safer havens always having enough water under our keel. And also because I believe that in a world that is constantly changing, it should be to our advantage to learn how to adapt and thus benefit from those changes."
He spoke of a future in which a simpler decision-making structure and a clearer focus on Members' demands, needs and wishes might be put in place. He also stressed the importance of proper implementation of IMO conventions and pledged his personal commitment to the Audit Scheme for Member States that is currently under development in IMO. "I am determined," he said, "to make the Audit Scheme the success it deserves to be so that, through rigorous implementation of its provisions and through the provision of assistance and advice to Members which need it, we can rid the world of sub-standard ships. For the Audit Scheme to progress well in all its aspects, I will place it under my direct supervision."
In thanking Members for their support and the confidence the Organization had placed in him, Mr Mitropoulos, who has been a staff member at IMO since 1979, referred to the beneficial effect on him of his two predecessors, Mr O'Neil and Mr C.P. Srivastava of India. "To build on the legacy of the two Great Men, under both of whom I have had the good fortune to serve, and take their achievements forward will be the challenge of my life."
A former seafarer, Hellenic Coast Guard officer and official in the Greek Maritime Administration, Mr Mitropoulos also spoke of his pride in the shipping industry and its global importance today. "I will miss no opportunity to express the pride I feel for the industry we all serve and also to emphasize the major contribution shipping makes to world trade and economy."