WMU New Building Inaugurated

State-of-the-art facilities for the World Maritime University (WMU) were inaugurated on 19 May and the celebrations included a gathering of distinguished speakers and invitees from around the globe.

In his welcoming remarks, WMU Acting President, Professor Neil Bellefontaine, thanked the host country of Sweden for their continued support, and the City of Malmö for their generosity in providing the new building and its furnishings. The official ribbon-cutting at the entrance was done by IMO Secretary-General and WMU Chancellor, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, together with Mr. Erik Bromander, State Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure, Ministry for Enterprise of Sweden, and Ms. Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jammeh, Chairman of the Malmö City Executive Board. Inside the building, Dr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Mr. Sekimizu, and WMU President Designate, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, cut the ribbon to declare open the new Sasakawa Auditorium.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Sekimizu noted the significant growth of the University programmes beyond the original M.Sc. to now include a PhD programme, multiple postgraduate diploma programmes, customized professional development courses, a significant research portfolio, and conferences on current maritime topics. He stated, “The new premises mark a historical milestone in the relations between Malmö and the University and will provide the forum for the University to continue growing and meeting the educational needs of the maritime sector.”

Mr. Sekimizu stated that the University’s growth over the coming decades would be shaped by the evolving shipping industry, and that several new strategic directions, outlined in a study for the financial sustainability of the university, would be key to its growth. The draft study was approved by the WMU Board of Governors on Monday (18 May), which will now be considered by the IMO Council. Among the strategic directions are the expansion of the WMU scope to include ocean-related matters, and the establishment of a Maritime and Ocean Policy Research Institute within WMU;  strengthening the University’s research function for maritime policy and ocean subjects; exploring new mechanisms of collaboration with national maritime universities and with the International Association of Maritime Universities; exploring further collaboration with activities of IMO Headquarters in the field of Technical Cooperation; and establishment of an Endowment Fund.

In regard to the financial sustainability of WMU, over the course of the Board of Governors meeting and inauguration events, it was announced that for the incoming class of students, the Federal Government of Germany will provide three full fellowships, and the Republic of Korea will provide a total of five fellowships.

Several speakers addressed the distinguished gathering for the inauguration including Dr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation. The Foundation, through the Ocean Policy Research Foundation, is the largest fellowship donor to the University and further supports the capacity building mission of WMU by sponsoring three Professorial Chairs, an Assistant Professor, and provides support for numerous conferences and events connected with WMU. In his remarks, Dr. Sasakawa voiced his support for an expanded oceans-related agenda for WMU stating, “It is my wish for WMU to keep moving forward to establish itself as an educational and research institution that can address ocean issues from not just the maritime but the greater oceanic field.” In support of that goal, he announced extended annual support for the University and the establishment of a special endowment fund of 100 million USD.  

Remarks on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, were delivered by Mr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director General of UNESCO. The importance of the seas and oceans to everyday life was emphasized noting that the new facilities “will enable the World Maritime University’s to make an even stronger contribution in the years ahead to the welfare of society, the protection, preservation and wise management of the oceans and for the achievement of the emerging post-2015 development agenda.”

Representing the host country of Sweden, Mr. Erik Bromander, State Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure, Ministry for Enterprise, remarked on Sweden’s support for technical cooperation, particularly in regard to sustainable shipping and that Sweden is proud to host the University.  From the City of Malmö, Ms. Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jammeh, Chairman of the Malmö City Executive Board, spoke of the transition of Malmö over the last three decades from a homogeneous, industrial city to an international city. “With residents from over 175 countries, the demographics of Malmö reflect those of the graduates of WMU and today the City is a knowledge-based economy” she stated. She noted that the historic Harbour Master’s Building played an important maritime role in Malmö’s history, and that now, “it will return to an important maritime role, but now not only for Malmö, but for the world...we are proud to have such an important institution in the heart of the city center.”

Ms. Ida Skard, Director General, of the Maritime Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, made remarks regarding the vital role WMU plays in developing maritime leaders and policy makers. Further, she announced that in both 2015 and in 2016, Norway will provide 4.5 million Norwegian kronor for the support of student fellowships, with the potential for renewal in future years.

Remarks on behalf of HE Mr. Hany Dahy, Minister of Transport for Egypt, were delivered by Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar, President, Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT). He noted that WMU is a worldwide center of excellence in postgraduate education and research and through its connection to the IMO and United Nations, provides unique capacity-building education to current and new maritime leaders in the shipping industry.

Closing remarks were delivered by WMU President Designate, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, who will take up her post at the University in July. She remarked on her commitment to a global maritime sector in which policy and governance are based on the international Conventions of the IMO and the related Conventions of the ILO. “To implement these Conventions effectively requires an educated and sophisticated global network, which is where WMU can contribute to the worldwide health and sustainability of the oceans, seas, and shipping industry,” she stated. “As WMU continues to support and advance these critical initiatives the University will strengthen partnerships with Governments, shipping industry actors, and all UN agencies that deal with ocean issues...Within these extraordinary new premises, WMU will bring together maritime professionals from around the globe to advance the maritime and oceans capacity-building goals of IMO within the spirit of the United Nations.”

The new facilities of almost 6,000 square meters have essentially doubled WMU’s floor space offering immense opportunities to support the growth of the University with a new auditorium, multiple research labs, seminar rooms, and video-conferencing facilities. The WMU library, which houses an exceptional collection of maritime titles, has quadrupled in size, and vital collaborative spaces for students and faculty are located throughout the building.

The City of Malmö provided WMU with the landmark Old Harbour Master’s Building, and through an architectural competition selected a dramatic extension wing completed by the renowned Danish architect Kim Utzon in collaboration with the Australian architecture firm of Terroir Architects. The new extension is a bold architectural statement that serves as an "urban hinge" between the historic city and the docklands. It responds to surrounding contemporary developments to the west and north, while the historic building remains a significant part of the city’s historic fabric to the east and south. 

All who are interested in seeing the new building are welcome to a public open house on Saturday, 30 May from 1000-1300. Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes.

Photos can be accessed and downloaded here.

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