Marine Link
Monday, September 27, 2021

IMO SG Emeritus William O’Neil Passes Away

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

November 2, 2020

William O’Neil was Secretary-General of IMO from 1990 to 2003. (Photo: IMO)

William O’Neil was Secretary-General of IMO from 1990 to 2003. (Photo: IMO)

William A. O’Neil, Secretary-General Emeritus of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has died in the United Kingdom, aged 93.

O’Neil was elected Secretary-General of the IMO for a first term of Office beginning in 1990, a second term beginning in 1994, a third term beginning in 1998 and a further two-year term from 2002 to 31 December 2003. He was the second longest serving Secretary-General of IMO.

Current IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim expressed his sincere condolences to the Canadian Government, O’Neil’s remaining family, and the condolences of the entire IMO membership and staff.

“It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Mr. O’Neil, who was a great friend and mentor who made a huge personal contribution to securing globally applicable safety, security and environmental standards,” Lim said.

O’Neil graduated in civil engineering from the University of Toronto in his native Canada in 1949 and served in various positions with the Federal Department of Transport. He was particularly closely associated with the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.

O’Neil was Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard from 1975 to 1980 and then became President and Chief Executive Officer of the St. Lawrence Authority, a position he held until joining the IMO. However, his links with IMO go back to 1972, when he represented Canada at the IMO Council. He became Chair of the IMO Council in 1980 and was re-elected four times.

In 1991, O’Neil became Chancellor of World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden and Chair of the Governing Board of the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta.

O’Neil was a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario and of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) University of Malta, Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) Nottingham Trent University, Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) Memorial University of Newfoundland and Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) Korea Maritime University.

In 1992, O’Neil was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1994 he was elected Member of the Royal Academy of Engineering and fellow of the Institute of Logistics and transport (formerly the Chartered Institute of Transport), United Kingdom and awarded The Admirals’ medal, Canada. In 1995 he was awarded the NUMAST Award (National Union of Marine Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers), United Kingdom; the SEATRADE Personality of the Year Award; the Professional Engineers Ontario Gold Medal and was made Commandeur, Ordre National des Cèdres, Lebanon and Member of the Order of Canada.

 In 1996, O’Neil was made a member of the Engineering Alumni Hall of Distinction at the University of Toronto and in 1997 he was awarded the Silver Bell Award of the Seamen’s Church Institute, new YorkNew York. In 1998 he was awarded the CMA Commodore Award (Connecticut Maritime Association), United States, the Orden “Vasco Nuñez de Balboa” en el Grado de Gran Cruz, Panama and the ”Dioscuri” Prize, Lega Navale Iitaliana, Agrigento, Italy. In 1999 he was awarded the Vice Admiral “jerry” Land Medal of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine engineers, United States and in 2000 the Halert C. Shepheard Award, United States.

Among other honors, in 2001 he was awarded the Medal for Distinguished services to the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs, Colombia and in 2002 the CITIS (Communication & IT in Shipping) Lifetime Achievement Award, United Kingdom, the Golden Jubilee Medal, Canada and the “15 November 1817 Medal, Uruguay and was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights (Honoris Causa), United Kingdom. In 2003, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Merchant Marine, Venezuela.  

O’Neil was awarded the IMO International Maritime Prize for 2003.  

O’Neil died on 29 October 2020. He leaves behind his wife, Olga O’Neil, children and grandchildren.

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