The World Maritime University, the United Nations educational institute launched by the IMO 35 years ago, has expanded into Ocean Research, with a call from industry to get more involved in its agenda.
Malmö, Sweden-based WMU has spent the last 35 years focusing on delivering post-graduate courses for mostly junior administration staff from the developing countries, offering a growing range of shipping and maritime based PhD courses.
It has not been without problems during those three and a half decades, but in recent years has managed to secure a broadening range of financial funds from UN member states and other organisations, notably the Nippon Foundation, which is the major contributor to the new Global Ocean Institute which opened last week. It has also been a supporter of several students over the years, having offered over 600 scholarships to help support PHD studies.
In 2015, when the WMU inaugurated its new main offices in central Malmö, the Nippon Foundation announced the intention to create an endowment fund worth $100m to support the creation of the institute. Financing also came from Sweden, Norway, Canada, and the city of Malmö which supports the WMU and benefits from having a UN institution in its city centre.
Officially known as the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, the WMU said it will “act as an independent focal point for ocean related dialogue and capacity-building.”
What exactly the GOI will achieve has yet to be decided, but it will need to prove its worth in an arena that already has a number of ocean institutes, research facilities and policy think-tanks.
But one key focus of its goals has already been the convergence of policy makers, scientific and academic communities and the actors in the commercial ocean industries.
In her welcoming remarks, WMU President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry said, “As the IMO’s preeminent postgraduate academic institution focused on maritime and ocean education, the new Global Ocean Institute will thrive as a centre of excellence to advance ocean research, capacity-building on global ocean policies that are cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and trans-regional in scope.”
One of the WMU alumni that studied at the WMU previously is the current IMO secretary-general. Kitack Lim who was present at the official opening and said in an opening speech that the shipping and other ocean industries can not develop their presence in the oceans in isolation of each other.
The marine space is for the use of others than just shipping, he said adding the need for an integrated and inter-generational approach to ocean industry and ocean policy.
The Nippon Foundation was founded on the back of money made from motorboat racing back in 1952, with Japanese laws being amended to support mechanical and shipbuilding industries. It was known as the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation from 1961 until 2011, and given permission to offer grants to support sports, education and welfare. It was able to offer infrastructure support, and international disaster relief work through its growing funds.
The foundation has contributed heavily to the WMU funds over the years. It has also given funds for a range of other maritime and ocean related projects over the half century. These include oil spill clean-up, coastguard training, combating piracy and more recently a $2m fund to support ambitious efforts to map the complete global seabed
Current chairman Yohei Sasakawa was also one of the key speakers at the inauguration of the GOI. “The challenges are getting more serious,” he said, referring to the ongoing concern about the health of the oceans due to human activity. “If we choose to remain complacent then human existence itself will be at risk” He also referenced the intergenerational nature of ocean ´governance,
Working with industry
Talking to Fathom World during the WMU ocean conference that was timed with the WMU GOI inauguration, WMY president Doumbia-Henry said that while the WMU will still focus on the need to building maritime governance capacity, and the institute will develop its presence in ocean governance and building links with the various UN agencies involved in ocean governance, she also said there is a growing need to bring industry to the table.
While shipping companies and other firms have been involved in the WMU, she said the need now is to take a more integrated approach, given the ocean industries are the ones that will need to be engaged with sustainable policy.
“Governments have recognised WMU, but engagement with the industry is a priority, because essentially it is not just research for governments but also building capacity for industry,” Doumbia-Henry explained, saying the WMU has been under utilised by the industry and that will need to change, hence the proposal to create a new industry liaison mechanism that will be a benefit to industry players as well as the WMU and the new Global Ocean Institute.