In Memoriam: William O’Neil

Mr. William A. O'Neil, WMU Chancellor Emeritus and IMO Secretary-General Emeritus, has passed away at the age of 93.

WMU President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, extended her sincere condolences to the Canadian Government, the International Maritime Organization, and Mr. O’Neil’s family on the behalf of the World Maritime University saying, "The WMU community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of WMU Chancellor Emeritus, Mr. William O’Neil. His distinguished maritime career had a significant impact on the global maritime and ocean sector, including the graduation of 1,257 maritime and ocean leaders from WMU during his tenure as Chancellor. His commitment to WMU’s capacity building mission, as well as maritime safety and environmental protection will leave a lasting legacy.” 

Mr O’Neil was elected Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (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 2004. He 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 and was particularly closely associated with the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.

His links with the IMO go back to 1972 when he represented Canada at the IMO Council. He became Chairman of the IMO Council in 1980 and was re-elected four times. He served as 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. 

On assuming the role of IMO Secretary-General, he served as Chancellor of the World Maritime University (WMU) from 1991 to 2003, and was also Chairman of the Governing Board of WMU’s sister institution, the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta. He presided over the celebrations of both WMU’s 10th and 20th Anniversary, and joined the 30th anniversary celebrations.

During his tenure at IMO, he stressed the importance of the human factor, maritime safety and security, as well as pollution prevention. He remained a stalwart supporter of the work of WMU as IMO’s apex education, training and research institution.

For more information about Mr. O’Neil’s career and contributions to the maritime sector, click here.

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