WMU Celebrates 30 Years
As published in the IMO News, Issue 2 2013
At the beginning of the 1980s, IMO identified a shortage of well-qualified, highly educated maritime experts, particularly in lesser developed nations. To address this gap, the IMO endeavoured to found an institution to support Member States with the high-level education necessary to implement international Conventions. In determining the institution’s location, then IMO Secretary-General Dr. C.P. Srivastava, approached the Swedish Ministry of Transport who welcomed the idea and Malmö was determined as the home of the institution. With the financial support of the Swedish government, the City of Malmö, and private donations, the World Maritime University (WMU) was inaugurated on 4 July 1983.
Thirty years later, WMU continues to serve IMO and its mission. As IMO’s centre of excellence for postgraduate maritime education, WMU’s mission is closely tied to that of IMO and is “to serve the global maritime community through education, research, and capacity building to ensure safe, secure, and efficient shipping on clean oceans.”
WMU President, Dr. Björn Kjerfve emphasizes that ”Three decades after its foundation, WMU maintains a unique position in the maritime community with an extensive network of graduates, professors, visiting professors, guest lecturers, and sponsors of field studies. In addition, the collaboration between the IMO and WMU is invaluable. With more than 90 per cent of global trade served by shipping, WMU’s graduates from 164 countries are a powerful influence in today’s maritime sector.”
Numerous alumni hold senior maritime positions as ministers of transport, directors of shipping companies and ports, heads of maritime academies and naval organizations, and many serve as representatives of their home countries at international forums and organizations such as the IMO. H.E. Binali Yildirim, Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communications for the Republic of Turkey graduated in 1991. In reference to his WMU education he stated "I learned so much, not only about maritime, but also social, cultural, political, and economical interactions during my stay at WMU. The education I received, and being a graduate of WMU, has played a very important role in my professional career."
The importance of WMU in the global sector was also remarked upon by IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu, who is also WMU’s Chancellor, at the December 2012 WMU graduation ceremony. "The influence of the World Maritime University within today's maritime community cannot be overstressed. Those who pass through its various programs go on to become global maritime leaders, experts and professionals. They increase and enhance the capacity of their countries and help to shape and develop effective policies for the maritime community on both the national and the global level."
Students in the Malmö M.Sc. program in particular benefit from an unusually diverse and international environment that provides an extraordinary network of faculty, visiting professors, guest lecturers, and fellow students. The majority of the students live together in the university-provided Henrik Smith Residence (HSR) that offers a unique opportunity for the sharing of maritime knowledge as well as cultural understanding and growth.
Elsie Bikondo graduated from WMU in December 2012 and is a Senior HR Officer at the Kenya Ports Authority. Her specialized studies in Maritime Education & Training were made possible through the Sasakawa Fellows program which to date has funded 458 WMU graduates. In reflecting on being part of such an international group, Ms. Bikondo remarked on the importance of learning about other cultures and being able to call upon her WMU network in the future. “Studying together at WMU and living together at HSR helps you learn to interact with students from so many different cultures. Respecting others and showing appreciation allows everyone to be open when discussing different issues. You realize that some problems are the same across the globe and you can talk together about ways to assess them. It has been an advantage to study at WMU and meet people from so many different parts of the world. If I have a maritime problem to solve, I can now reach out to a network of friends from over 40 different countries.”
As WMU celebrates 30 years it boasts offerings far beyond the original Master of Science degree. In addition to six specializations available within the Malmö M.Sc. program, there are now M.Sc. programs in Shanghai and Dalian, China and a Ph.D. program offering five specializations within a flexible framework allowing the majority of the program to be completed from afar. Distance learning is available as well with a Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Insurance through cooperation with Lloyd’s Maritime Academy. In addition, WMU utilizes its extensive network of international maritime experts to deliver a broad program of professional development courses in Malmö with the potential for tailor-made courses at any location worldwide.
Expanding their service to the maritime community and taking advantage of their extensive network, WMU regularly offers international conferences. Recent topics include oil spill risk management, piracy at sea, emerging ballast water management systems, the impact of climate change in the maritime industry, and ship recycling. The next offering on 12 November will focus on Corporate Social Responsibility in the maritime industry and is co-hosted by The Nippon Foundation, the Japanese International Transport Institute, BIMCO, the Danish Shipowners’ Association, and WMU. Looking to 2014, in support of the UN Millennium Development Goal to support gender equality and empower women, and the IMO Programme for the Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector, WMU will host an international conference entitled Maritime Women: Global Leadership 31 March – 1 April 2014.
Parallel to the academic programs, research has grown at WMU with roughly 15 on-going projects in areas such as mitigating invasive species in the arctic, risk assessment, Maritime Spatial Planning, e-navigation and safety of life at sea. In May of 2012, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu inaugurated the Maritime Risk and Safety (MaRiSa) Simulation Laboratory, a specialized research lab offering unique experimental facilities, particularly in the field of e-navigation.
With 30 years of increased growth and activity, it is no surprise that WMU has outgrown its current facilities. The City of Malmö has always generously provided WMU with their facilities and that continued generosity will soon mean a new home for WMU. At the close of 2014, the University will move to Tornhuset, the historic Old Harbour Master’s Building in the centre of Malmö. The century-old building is a city landmark and will be supplemented by a dramatic new addition designed by the renowned Danish architect Kim Utzon of Kim Utzon Architects in collaboration with the Australian architecture firm Terroir.
In total, nearly 6,000m2of WMU’s new facilities will essentially double its current floor space offering immense opportunities to support the growth of WMU with a new auditorium, multiple research labs, seminar rooms, and video-conferencing facilities. The WMU library, which houses an exceptional collection of maritime titles, will quadruple in size allowing for expansion of the collections as well as providing vital collaborative spaces for students and faculty.
While the City of Malmö is generously providing the building and basic infrastructure, WMU is responsible for raising the funds to equip the space with state-of-the-art research equipment, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), database development, e-learning technology, and video-conferencing. Through installations such as Science on a Sphere that utilizes computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, WMU plans to take advantage of its new, central location by reaching out to the public and local school groups to educate about the world’s oceans and the importance of the maritime sector.
As the one truly international educational organization for the maritime community, operating under the auspices of the IMO and the UN, WMU aims to be the pinnacle of global excellence in postgraduate education and research. The University’s influence is significant, widespread, and growing as it continues to serve the international maritime community through expanded degree offerings, professional development courses, distance learning, international conferences, and research. With its unique connection to IMO, recent successes, future facilities, and outreach plans, it is clear that the World Maritime University will continue to influence the global maritime sector for many generations to come.