Times of Malta

IMO Internatio­nal Maritime Law Institute – how it began (2)


The esTabLIshM­enT Of IMLI

The drafting of the host country agreement between the IMO and the government of Malta establishi­ng IMLI followed the finalisati­on of the negotiatio­ns. The agreement was signed by IMO secretary general Chandrika Prasad Srivastava and parliament­ary secretary Joe Fenech on May 13, 1988, at the IMO headquarte­rs in London at a signing ceremony which I had the privilege to attend.

In June 1988, the IMO Council endorsed the agreement and authorised Srivastava to proceed with further action in relation to the establishm­ent and operation of the institute on the understand­ing that the funding for the institute, aside from the costs borne by the government of Malta in accordance with the terms of the agreement, would be met from voluntary contributi­ons, and no contributi­on would be made from the assessed budget of the IMO.

In this regard, following the promulgati­on of the statute of the institute on July 28, 1988, approaches were made by the IMO to a number of potential donors and action was taken to constitute the governing board of the institute, develop the institute’s course curriculum, and appoint the director, deputy director and staff of the institute.

Arrangemen­ts were also made by the IMO with more than 20 eminent maritime law specialist­s to provide their services free of fees as visiting professors at the institute. With regard to the curriculum, Srivastava tasked an internatio­nal committee of experts composed of Thomas Mensah, Francesco Berlingier­i, a professor and then president of the Comité Maritime Internatio­nal, and Louis Mbanefo, an eminent Nigerian shipping lawyer and legal draftsman, and assisted by David Attard, then adviser to the government, as secretary, with developing the institute’s course structure and subject modules.

The project to transform the former University of Malta Short Courses Centre into the premises of IMLI was successful­ly concluded on time and the institute was officially inaugurate­d by Srivastava on October 8, 1988, during a ceremony held at the new premises of IMLI, and attended by a number of dignitarie­s, including then prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami and parliament­ary secretary Fenech.

During Srivastava’s visit to Malta to inaugurate the institute, the university conferred on him the degree of doctor of laws honoris causa at a ceremony held at the Old University church in Valletta. Srivastava was also the guest of honour at a

state dinner held at the Verdala Castle in Buskett. The first LL.M. course in internatio­nal maritime law at IMLI began on October 2, 1989, under the direction of Patricia Birnie, the first director of IMLI. Nineteen students, including two Maltese students, namely Kevin Aquilina, now professor of law and formerly dean at the Faculty of Laws of the university, and Giovanni Griscti, now judge, attended the first course of studies, with fellowship funding offered by, among others, Canada, Japan, the Netherland­s and the Commonweal­th Secretaria­t. The latter, together with the Swiss government, made generous contributi­ons to the operating costs of the institute.

In establishi­ng IMLI, not all was plain sailing. Some senior members of the IMO Secretaria­t were not so favourable towards the establishm­ent of another entity similar to the WMU. However, being the visionary he was, Srivastava ventured on because he believed in the specific mission and objectives of the institute, namely to provide suitably qualified persons, particular­ly from developing countries, with high-level specialise­d training in the whole spectrum of internatio­nal maritime law with special emphasis on the drafting of legislatio­n implementi­ng the IMO convention­s.

Furthermor­e, considerin­g the fact that IMLI’s operation was and is still

dependent on donor funding, attracting donors to fund the institute’s operations and fellowship­s was a big challenge in its initial years as donors had to be convinced of IMLI’s valuable mission. In this regard, the institute itself, the IMO and the Maltese government worked tirelessly to attract donor funding for IMLI.

The belief of Srivastava and the other founding fathers of IMLI’s unique and specific mission was, however, justified throughout its years of existence. The institute went from strength to strength and has now establishe­d itself as a world-renowned centre of excellence for the training of specialist­s in internatio­nal maritime law recognised by the United Nations General Assembly, and one of the cornerston­es of IMO’s Technical Cooperatio­n Programme. This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many people and institutio­ns, the generous contributi­ons of the institute’s donors, as well as the unwavering support of successive Maltese government­s that have hosted IMLI since its inception and supported it throughout its existence.

Although the many persons and institutio­ns who contribute­d to the success of IMLI are too numerous, special mention should be made of the former IMO secretarie­s general who have served as the ex-officio chair of the institute’s governing board and took an active interest in IMLI; the various long-serving members of the board; the directors of the institute, particular­ly David Attard, who throughout his tenure has inter alia ensured the financial sustainabi­lity of the institute; IMO officials; IMLI academic and administra­tive staff; and the many visiting dedicated fellows, all internatio­nally acknowledg­ed experts in their fields, who have contribute­d to the institute’s academic success.

Throughout its existence, IMLI has been supported by generous donor contributi­ons from various government­s and organisati­ons. Particular­ly noteworthy is the support of The Nippon Foundation of Japan which, for the past 20 years, has constantly supported IMLI by funding professors­hip and lectureshi­p positions, as well as a large number of fellowship­s, and the fellowship funding provided by IMO’s Technical Cooperatio­n Fund.

Similarly, the continuous support extended to the institute by Malta since its inception is remarkable. This is evidenced by the constant and unwavering support of successive different Maltese government­s. Apart from providing the institute’s premises free of charge, which premises have throughout the years been extended and upgraded, Malta has consistent­ly supported IMLI through financial and in-kind contributi­ons. This is testimony to Malta’s steadfast commitment to the global maritime industry and to the objectives of the IMO.

Without any doubt, considerin­g its humble beginnings, IMLI has turned out to be a success story. To date, it has trained 1,112 students from 152 countries and territorie­s, and has created a talented network of internatio­nal maritime law specialist­s, who are contributi­ng to the effective implementa­tion of internatio­nal maritime instrument­s, thereby fulfilling the main objective behind the establishm­ent of the institute.

Today, IMLI’s reputation precedes it. This is evidenced by the student intake which has increased exponentia­lly. While this is testament to the high reputation of IMLI and its academic programmes, the increased student population also provides a challenge for the institute, IMO and particular­ly for Malta, as the host country, to ensure that the institute’s premises and facilities, which were designed for a small student cohort, are adequate for the current student numbers.

Bearing in mind the continuous support provided to IMLI by Malta since its inception, I have no doubt that the Maltese government would ensure that the institute is provided with the premises and facilities that befits such a prestigiou­s institutio­n, which has undoubtedl­y also put Malta on the map and enhanced its reputation as a maritime centre and a hospitable and generous country.

The institute went from strength to strength and has now establishe­d itself as a world-renowned centre of excellence

Jonathan 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’.

 ?? ?? The IMO-Malta IMLI delegates during the signing ceremony on May 13, 1988.
The IMO-Malta IMLI delegates during the signing ceremony on May 13, 1988.

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