Times of Malta

IMO Internatio­nal Maritime Law Institute – how it began (1)

- (To be concluded tomorrow)

This year marks the 35th anniversar­y since the IMO Internatio­nal Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), which was establishe­d in Malta in 1988, delivered its first LL.M. programme in internatio­nal maritime law in 1989. Jonathan Pace, who was part of the Malta team leading the negotiatio­ns with the Internatio­nal Maritime Organisati­on, provides a first-hand account of the events that led to the establishm­ent of IMLI.

In May 1987, the newly elected Maltese administra­tion led by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami had just embarked on a mission to turn Malta into an internatio­nal services centre. With this in mind, a Ministry for Developmen­t of Tertiary sector and a Parliament­ary Secretaria­t for Maritime and Other Affairs were establishe­d. The latter, led by Joe Fenech, parliament­ary secretary, was tasked with, inter alia, revamping Malta’s maritime legislatio­n, particular­ly its Merchant Shipping Act, and in turn developing Malta as an internatio­nal maritime centre of repute.

Soon after the parliament­ary secretaria­t was establishe­d, I was fortunate enough to join it initially as a desk officer and later as an administra­tive officer. In this role, I assisted government officials to transform and promote Malta as an internatio­nal maritime centre. However, at the time, little did I know that I was to witness and contribute to the birth of IMLI, and experience the exciting days leading to its establishm­ent.

Between September 7 and 11, 1987, the Pacem in Maribus (PIM) XV Conference was held in Malta under the theme ‘The Commemorat­ion of the 20th Anniversar­y of the Maltese Initiative which led to UNCLOS III’. David Attard, a professor and at the time an adviser to the government, was a speaker at the conference together with the then secretary general Chandrika Prasad Srivastava of the Internatio­nal Maritime Organisati­on (IMO).

Upon meeting Srivastava, conscious of the Maltese government’s objective to transform Malta into an internatio­nal maritime centre and of its desire to enhance its relations with internatio­nal organisati­ons, Attard arranged for Fenech to meet Srivastava for lunch at Mdina.

During lunch, Srivastava, Fenech and Attard ‒ all lawyers and later acknowledg­ed as the founding fathers of IMLI ‒ discussed the Maltese government’s plans for the maritime sector, including its intention to revamp Malta’s participat­ion in the workings of IMO. Aware of the need for the adoption and implementa­tion of internatio­nal maritime convention­s and the transposit­ion of same into national legislatio­n, the Maltese side

proposed the setting up of an institute for the teaching of internatio­nal maritime law.

Srivastava, who a few years earlier had establishe­d the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden, under the auspices of IMO, was very interested in this proposal as he believed that the proposed institute would indeed be complement­ary to the WMU, which did not offer specific maritime law courses.

Moreover, the institute, apart from filling a niche training gap, would provide developing countries with their own national capability in maritime law. Srivastava proposed that the institute be establishe­d on the same lines as WMU: a separate entity establishe­d under the auspices of IMO, enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities, with the Maltese government providing premises to host the institute and accommodat­e its students in accommodat­ion similar to that provided by WMU in Malmö.

Both IMO and the Maltese government wasted no time in turning this proposal into reality. Negotiatio­ns and follow-up action proceeded in earnest with several meetings taking place between the two sides. Fenech led the negotiatio­ns on behalf of the government of Malta, assisted by Attard and supported by John de Gray, head of the parliament­ary secretaria­t for maritime and other affairs; Lino C. Vassallo, assistant head of the parliament­ary secretaria­t, who later became permanent representa­tive of Malta to IMO; Pierre Cauchi, administra­tive assistant at the parliament­ary secretaria­t; and the author of this article, at the time a desk officer within the said secretaria­t.

Srivastava led the negotiatio­ns on behalf of IMO, assisted by IMO’s senior management team including Thomas Mensah, assistant secretary general and director, legal division, who later became the first president of the Internatio­nal Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), and Leighton van North, director, Technical Cooperatio­n Division.

In January 1988, agreement was reached in principle to establish in Malta an IMO institute for the teaching of internatio­nal maritime law, with the Maltese government undertakin­g to provide the premises to house the institute and accommodat­e its students free of charge. This agreement was approved by the cabinet, which also agreed that the Short Courses Centre, then still under constructi­on within the grounds of the University of Malta, be proposed to IMO as the premises for the institute.

Discussion­s, followed by an agreement between the government and the University of Malta on the completion and use of the Short Courses Centre, ensued between parliament­ary secretary Fenech and Peter Serracino Inglott, then rector of the university. Under this agreement, the Short Courses Centre was put at the disposal of the government by the university to house the institute.

I was entrusted with coordinati­ng the project for the completion, furnishing and equipping of the Short Courses Centre, working in close cooperatio­n with Dennis De Luca, former dean of the Faculty of Architectu­re and Engineerin­g at the university, and the architect of the Short Courses Centre.

Following a competitiv­e government tender, a turnkey contract was awarded to Vassallo Builders Ltd, which was entrusted to complete the project in good time for the institute to be inaugurate­d during the last quarter of 1988.

For his part, Srivastava, while continuing the negotiatio­ns with the government of Malta, initiated consultati­ons with potential donors who could provide the necessary funding for the running of the institute and, more importantl­y, for fellowship­s for duly qualified students from developing countries.

Several meetings also took place between the IMO and the Maltese government, while a number of IMO officials visited Malta for meetings and to view the proposed premises for the institute.

Crucial negotiatin­g points during the bilateral discussion­s between Malta and IMO included the nature of academic degrees awarded, the designatio­n of the institute as an IMO institute, and the availabili­ty of its courses to candidates nominated by government­s, in particular of developing countries, who would be appointed to or were already serving with government­s or port or shipping organisati­ons.

Negotiatio­ns also establishe­d that 50 per cent of the student places be reserved for deserving women candidates. This is evidence of the IMO’s early recognitio­n of the importance of enhancing the role of women in the maritime sector.

It was proposed that the institute would have such a student intake that would guarantee as much individual attention as possible, and that the duration of courses be one academic year. Both parties also agreed that two places at the institute be made available each year free of fees to suitably qualified Maltese nationals nominated by the government.

Pace is former deputy director, Technical Cooperatio­n Division, IMO, and former deputy executive director and registrar of ships at the Merchant Shipping Directorat­e of the Malta Maritime Authority (now Transport Malta).

This article is a revised version of a contributi­on by the author to the 2019 IMLI publicatio­n ‘Celebratin­g 30 Years in the service of the Rule of Internatio­nal Maritime Law’.

 ?? ?? An IMO delegation visiting the IMLI premises still under constructi­on.
An IMO delegation visiting the IMLI premises still under constructi­on.

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