Inaugural Congress Champions Sekimizu's Passion for Maritime Heritage

Koji Sekimizu
Koji Sekimizu

By The Maritime Executive 02-16-2019 04:20:58

The inaugural World Congress on Maritime Heritage to be held in Singapore from March 13 to 15 will be opened by former IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu. Raising awareness of shipping with the general public has been a long-term passion for Sekimizu, and MarEx spoke to him about how he is turning his vision into reality through the Congress.

Why, as a former Secretary-General of the IMO, are you promoting a wider awareness of shipping among the general public?

The shipping industry is responsible for carrying more than 90 percent of goods traded internationally. It is vital for the world economy and for the prosperity of mankind. However, this fact is not well known outside the industry. The general public just don't realize the contributions made by the shipping industry to the well-being of the world, and they don't know about the activities of the IMO to ensure its international governance and sustainability. I believe that more people should be interested, and the promotion of awareness for our maritime heritage is a good way of achieving this.

Proper recognition of shipping by the general public would lead to a wider interest in shipping and the activities of the IMO. Hence, the activities of the IMO would be supported by more people and politicians who could then genuinely understand the real situation and the importance of good governance.

I started promoting this when I was working at the IMO as Secretary-General, and after my retirement from the IMO I have continued my interest. I appreciate the pioneering efforts of the Consortium for International Maritime Heritage, its Founder Carleen Lyden Walker and Chairman Terry Garcia, Resorts World Sentosa and the many government officials in Singapore who have jointly brought the splendid idea of the Congress to reality.

What appreciation for maritime heritage have you observed around the world?

I have spent many days and weeks traveling in IMO Member countries and meeting with government officials on various shipping-related issues. This gave me an excellent opportunity to observe the status of shipping in these countries and to discuss future developments with Ministers who were universally proud of their maritime heritage. I always spoke on the importance of raising awareness of shipping with the general public and suggested the use of regional maritime heritage as a way of achieving this. 

I decided to ask countries that hosted IMO World Maritime Day events to highlight their maritime heritage as part of their events, and one of the reasons I established the IMO Maritime Ambassador Scheme in 2015 was to raise awareness of maritime heritage in every nation. I see tremendous potential to undertake such promotion to the real value of shipping.

What is unique about the World Congress on Maritime Heritage?

There are many national and international groups interested in history and mankind's cultural heritage. However, the World Congress on Maritime Heritage is the first attempt to discuss future activities for those interested in maritime history and in particular, ways of promoting the proper and wider recognition of maritime heritage in the mind of the general public.

The holding of such a high level international meeting is itself a challenge, and I sincerely hope that this event will generate momentum for further international activity among those involved in academic study, maritime museums, societies of maritime history and various sectors of the shipping industry including seafarers and training institutions. It is also relevant to governments, the fishing industry and those interested in how the Sustainable Development Goals relate to the ocean.

What aspect of maritime heritage will you talk about during your keynote address at the Congress?

In the session titled “Ocean as a Pathway to Governance” I intend to talk about the values of the present system of global maritime governance achieved through decades of continuous effort by the United Nations, the IMO and the shipping industry. I intend to discuss the origins of maritime governance by reviewing the maritime history of North East Asia, set out the important elements of maritime governance in the present day, the achievements of the IMO and current and future challenges faced by the international shipping industry.

I am also looking forward to listening to discussions between established maritime museums such as the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and newcomers such as The Galeón in Manila, discussions on how to promote the activities of the International Congress of Maritime Museums, discussions on how international rules and regulations and the current system of maritime governance could be considered part of maritime heritage, discussion on how shipping companies could contribute and discussions on cooperation among existing maritime heritage societies. 

What outcomes do you hope to see at the World Congress on Maritime Heritage?

Although it is always not well appreciated and easily forgotten, our modern life is created on our past maritime history and maritime heritage. The World Congress on Maritime Heritage will provide an excellent opportunity for us to recognize our past and consider future developments.

It is hoped that this will be the first of many biannual events. By bringing together stakeholders to discuss ways to leverage their activities to enhance the public’s knowledge about the oceans and ocean transportation, we hope to ensure the sustainability of the oceans. This will require careful stewardship and research, and we need to put the public’s focus on what a valuable role shipping and the oceans plays in global society. To that end, we are breaking into regional groups on the second day to discuss potential collaborative projects which could be brought to fruition by the next Congress in two years’ time.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.