Speech by Dr. Björn Kjerfve
President, World Maritime University
10 July 2013 

Your Excellencies, Secretary-General, Secretaries-General Emeritus, Resident Representatives, IMO Representatives, WMU Governors, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Friends of WMU, I am overwhelmed by this magnificent recognition of WMU on its 30thAnniversary. I am moved, professionally and personally, by the hospitality of our Chancellor, the Secretary-General Mr. Sekimizu, and thank his staff for all their support over the years. I also want to thank the WMU Governors, the members of the Executive Board, and also its chairperson, Mr. Torben Skaanild. Today we recognize this significant milestone in the unfolding history of the World Maritime University.

On behalf of the WMU, its faculty, staff, students, and alumni, I am deeply touched by the kind words of the eminent speakers who have preceded me this afternoon. I am particularly delighted that besides Mr. Sekimizu, two previous Chancellors have joined us, Mr. O’Neil and Mr. Mitropoulos, who each played such a major and important role in the success of the University. We miss that Dr. Srivastava could not have joined us.

As you know, just last week, WMU celebrated its 30thbirthday on 4 July, the day of the first student intake in Malmö 30 years ago. Looking back, we can see how the University has grown from its tentative beginnings to a leading post-graduate maritime university with an education and research mission for the sake of global maritime capacity building.

I am touched by the support demonstrated by your presence at this event, in recognition of the importance of our work on your behalf. The University may be small in size, but it has a huge impact. By the end of this year, there will be 3,700 graduates, working in national administrations  and ports, shipping companies, maritime academies, and other organizations, including at least two ministers. We are proud of the success of our alumni.

Our work has been made possible by the generous support of many benefactors over the last 30 years. Three, in particular, stand out: The Government of Sweden, the City of Malmö, and the Nippon Foundation and affiliated Ocean Policy Research Foundation. Special thanks go to Infrastructure Minister Elmsäter-Svärd, to the Chairman of the Malmö City Council Mr. Reepalu, and to the Nippon Foundation Chairman Dr. Sasakawa. I would also like to recognize the support from many governments and international organizations.

The University is an achievement that has touched the lives of graduates, their employers and families, and the resident and visiting faculty who have taught them. The University has also had a real effect on the economic growth of developing countries, and we are proud to have played our part in the development of a safe and environmentally sensitive industry. WMU’s mission of capacity building remains critical, even now that half our students are funded by their employer or from private resources.

An important point deserves to be pointed out, WMU belongs to the world; we are not a Swedish institution although we are located in Sweden, but instead WMU belongs to all 170 IMO Member States. This makes it essential that we work to achieve excellence in every aspect of our activities. Anything less would be a betrayal of you.

At WMU, we have dared to dream big dreams. In just three decades, we have established an international reputation in both teaching and research at the highest level. Having been the President for the past 4 years, I am particularly proud to report that:

  • WMU has accomplished a financial turn-around after 2009 and been able to rebuild the Reserve Fund to its record level in 2006 just before the financial crisis;
  • Reinvigorated the enrollment in the M.Sc. program in Maritime Affairs with an intake of more than M.Sc. 104 students three years in a row, with maybe 115 coming this fall to Malmö; Shanghai and Dalian, we award another 75 or so M.Sc. degrees annually;
  • Established an active research and Ph.D. program in Maritime Affairs;
  • Replaced 55% of the faculty in a transparent process, an over-turn because of retirements, moving the University into a position of excellence with Ph.D.-level very capable maritime faculty, many with seafaring backgrounds;
  • Worked closely with the City of Malmö to design and bring about the new WMU facility, moving from a dream to a reality in late 2014.

I thank the WMU faculty and staff for their hard work. We can now build on these recent accomplishments with new strategic directions. A succession of excellent intakes to our M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs has demonstrated your support for the value of what we do. WMU, the University of the IMO Member States, educates the maritime leaders of tomorrow.

To safeguard our future, to make sure that we can continue to offer you our committed service to maritime excellence and capacity building, we are now working to make convincing arguments and establish an Endowment Fund for the sake of the long-term sustainability of WMU. I am looking forward to work with all of you here tonight to achieve this goal with your support during the years to come.

I would like to finish by thanking all of you for joining this celebration. Thanks also to the Secretary-General and his staff for organizing this afternoon’s event, and to the constellation of speakers. Your support means more to WMU and our graduates than I can express.

Please remember that although WMU is located in Sweden, WMU is in fact your University, the University of the 170 IMO Member States. WMU educates the maritime leaders for the future.

Thank you!