Previous IMO Secretaries-General (2024)

The Organization’s Secretaries-General play a key role in the development of IMO. Each Secretary-General, in their own way, has contributed to the growth and success of the Organization, sometimes through difficult periods.

The current Secretary-General is Mr. Arsenio Dominguez. He was elected Secretary-General of the Organization by the 129th session of the IMO Council in July 2023 for a four-year period beginning 1 January 2024(read more here).

Previous Secretaries-General

Kitack Lim2016-2023

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (1)

Kitack Lim was born in Masan in the Republic of Korea. He majored in nautical science at the Korea Maritime and Ocean University (KMOU), Busan, graduating in 1977, and then worked at sea on ships as a Korean naval officer and for Sanko Shipping Co. He joined the Korea Maritime and Port Administration in 1985, while continuing with further studies at the Graduate School of Administration, Yonsei University, obtaining a master’s degree in 1990. He then studied maritime administration with a major in navigation at the World Maritime University (WMU), graduating with a master’s degree. From 1995, he attended a doctoral programme for international law at KMOU, completing course work in 1998.

Mr. Lim began attending IMO meetings as part of the Republic of Korea’s delegation in 1986, actively participating in maritime safety and environmental protection issues. From 1992, he engaged in activities to promote maritime safety through effective implementation of IMO conventions in his own country and other IMO Member States in the Asian region. He was elected Chair of the Tokyo Memorandum on Port State Control in 2004.

In 2006, while serving as Director General of Maritime Safety, Lim was appointed as Senior Maritime Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London and led all IMO work for the Republic of Korea, serving as Deputy Permanent Representative to IMO up to August 2009.

He was then appointed as Director General for Maritime Safety Policy Bureau at the Headquarters of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM). In March 2011, he was appointed Commissioner of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) and, in July 2012, assumed the position of President of Busan Port Authority.

Then in November 2015, the IMO Assembly unanimously approved his appointment as Secretary-General with effect from 1 January 2016, for an initial term of four years, which was then extended by the Council at its 121st session until 31 December 2023.

Mr. Lim came to office with a vision of strengthened partnerships – between developing and developed countries, between governments and industry, between IMO Member States and regions. He stated his ambition to strengthen communication between the maritime industry and the general public, casting IMO in the role of a bridge between all stakeholders in what he frequently referred to as “a voyage together”.

A commitment to diversity in maritime has been highlighted through Mr. Lim’s term, exemplified in the 2019 World Maritime theme on “Empowering women in the maritime community”. The IMO Assembly in 2019 adopted a resolution on Preserving the legacy of the World Maritime Theme for 2019 and achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime sector. The report on the first-ever survey carried out by IMO and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association Limited (WISTA International) to gather data on women in maritime was published in 2021. The IMO Assembly in 2021 adopted a resolution establishing the annual International Day for Women in Maritime. The first Women in Maritime Day was held on 18 May 2022.

Mr. Lim was highly committed to reducing air pollution from ships and stepping up climate action. During his term of office he oversaw the implementation of IMO 2020, which brought in a significantly reduced global upper limit on the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, a landmark change for the shipping industry. Having been reduced to 0.50% of sulphur (from 3.50%), this is expected to bring significant positive benefits for human health and the environment.

One of Mr. Lim’s biggest achievements as Secretary-General was the adoption in 2018 of the IMO Initial Strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping. This was followed by the adoption of the 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships with an enhanced common ambition to reach net-zero GHG emissions from international shipping close to 2050. The revised Strategy envisages the development and adoption, by 2025, of a goal-based marine fuel standard regulating the phased reduction of the marine fuel’s GHG intensity and a maritime GHG emissions pricing mechanism.

The adoption of the 2023 Strategy was a monumental development for IMO and opened a new chapter towards maritime decarbonization, setting up a clear direction, a common vision, and ambitious targets to guide the shipping industry to deliver what the world expects from it. The Organization’s climate action reflectedMr. Lim’s personal commitment to combating climate change for future generations.

Koji Sekimizu2012-2015

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (2)

Born on 3 December 1952 in Yokohama, Japan, Koji Sekimizu graduated in March 1975 and two years later obtained a Master’s degree in engineering from Osaka University. In April 1977, he entered the Ministry of Transport of Japan (MOT) and was appointed as a Ship Inspector. In April 1979, he moved to the headquarters of the MOT and acted as the chief officer in charge of IMO regulations in the Safety Planning Section of the Ship Bureau.

In July 1980, he was transferred, under a special arrangement, to the Shipbuilding Research Association of Japan to attend committees and sub-committees of IMO. In April 1982 he was promoted to Deputy Director of the Environment Division, MOT. He temporarily moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April 1984.

On 2 July 1989 he joined IMO as Technical Officer in the Subdivision for Technology, Maritime Safety Division. In 1992, he was appointed as Head of the Technology Section and worked for the Maritime Safety Division until October 1997.

In October 1997, he was promoted to Senior Deputy Director of the Marine Environment Division (MED), and then in August 2000 appointed its Director.

As Director of the MED, he led it in discharging its responsibilities to support the work of, among other things, the MEPC in dealing with the phase-out schedule for single-hull tankers, the Condition Assessment Scheme proposed in the aftermath of the Erika (1999) and Prestige (2002) incidents, and handling a number of emerging new environmental issues including harmful anti-fouling paints, ballast water management, ship recycling, particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs), and greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

In January 2004, he was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division and contributed to the preparation, adoption and implementation of international rules and regulations including: implementation of the ISPS Code; development of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT) system; development of the Goal Based Standards; and the comprehensive review of the 1978 STCW Convention.

At its 106th session in July 2011, the Council appointed him as the seventh Secretary-General of IMO for the period from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2015. This appointment was approved by the Assembly, at its 27th session in December 2011.

The most challenging moment during his whole period as Secretary-General came as he took over at the beginning of 2012. “When I started my work in the office of the S-G, I had already made upAs Director of the MED, he led it in discharging its responsibilities to support the work of, among other things, the MEPC in dealing with the phase-out schedule for single-hull tankers, the Condition Assessment Scheme proposed in the aftermath of the Erika (1999) and Prestige (2002) incidents, and handling a number of emerging new environmental issues including harmful anti-fouling paints, ballast water management, ship recycling, particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs), and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. In January 2004, he was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division and contributed to the preparation, adoption and implementation of international rules and regulations including: implementation of the ISPS Code; development of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT) system; development of the Goal Based Standards; and the comprehensive review of the 1978 STCW Convention. At its 106th session in July 2011, the Council appointed him as the seventh Secretary-General of IMO for the period from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2015. This appointment was approved by the Assembly, at its 27th session in December 2011. my mind to set up a new management team in the Secretariat with a number of appointments and promotions for the key positions. I also wanted to organize a high-level segment of the MSC to deal with the issue of arms on board ships for the protection of merchant ships against the still active pirates in the Indian Ocean and, in addition I wanted to introduce new approaches to Member Governments such as holding regular sessions of the Secretary-General’s Informal Briefing to Member Governments. However, I was immediately forced to respond to the accident of the Costa Concordia”.

During his tenure, he promoted the adoption of the Polar Code, the mandatory IMO Member State Audit Scheme and the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention.

However just four years into Sekimizu’s term he retired because of family health reasons and returned to Japan, after some 25 years in London, and now lives with his wife in f*ckuoka.

Efthimios Mitropoulos2004-2011

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (3)

Efthimios E Mitropoulos was born in Piraeus, Greece, on 30 May 1939. In 1957, he entered the Aspropyrgos Merchant Marine Academy and between 1959 and 1962, served at sea on merchant ships. In 1962, he entered the Hellenic Coast Guard Academy, graduating in 1964 and starting his career as a Coast Guard Officer in Corfu and Piraeus.

Between 1966 and 1977 he participated, initially as a member and later Head of the Greek Delegation, in the work of various Sub-Committees and the Maritime Safety Committee of IMO.

Between 1967 and 1972, he laid the foundations for the establishment of Greece’s Joint Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Centre. Between 1977 and 1979 he was Harbour Master of Corfu, with responsibility for the sea area surrounding the island and all the nearby Greek islands for safety, security and environmental protection.

He joined IMO in January 1979 as Implementation Officer in the Maritime Safety Division and in October 1985 was appointed Head of the Navigation Section. In May 1992, he was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division and Secretary of the Maritime Safety Committee. In May 2000, he became Assistant Secretary-General, retaining his duties as Director of the Maritime Safety Division. In November 2003, Mitropoulos was electedSecretary-General for the period 2004 to 2008. In 2006, the IMO Council decided to renew his mandate for another four years, ending 31 December 2011.

During his stewardship of IMO, the Organization adopted a number of international conventions to regulate issues such as prevention of unlawful acts (terrorism) against shipping; ballast water management; the recycling of ships; wreck removal; prevention of air pollution from ships; and the updating of the STCW Convention.

Mr. Mitropoulos led the IMO response to the rise of acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the wider area of the Indian Ocean, presenting the issue at the UN Security Council and coordinating the input of Governments, military alliances and the private sector in an orchestrated campaign to eliminate the scourge. His campaign to raise the profile of the seafarer saw multi-faceted action taken universally, culminating in the 2010 Manila Conference and the IMO/UN decision to celebrate the Day of the Seafarer in June every year.

Between 2005 and the end of his tenure of office, he placed emphasis on IMO’s response to issues pertaining to climate change and led the IMO delegation to the United Nations Climate (COP) Conferences held, under the auspices of the UN, in Bali, Copenhagen, Potsdam, Cancún and Durban.

In June 2004, he was appointed Chancellor of the World Maritime University and Chair of the Governing Board of the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (Malta).

In 2012, he received an honorary knighthood from HM The Queen, the Grand Cross of the Order of Phoenix of the Hellenic Republic and the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He has been honoured with high distinctions and decorations by the Governments and Navies/ Coast Guards of Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy, the United States, Panama, the Philippines, Côte d’Ivoire and others.

In 2008, he was made Seatrade Personality of the Year and the Lloyd’s List Greek Shipping Personality of the Year, and in 2016, awarded the Lloyd’s List Lifetime Achievement Global Award.

During his time at IMO, he received many honorary degrees from various universities including: University of the Aegean, Greece; Naval Academy, Varna, Bulgaria; Schiller International University, London Branch; University of Messina, Italy; City University, London; World Maritime University, Malmö; Odessa Maritime Academy, Ukraine; the Seoul and Busan Universities, Republic of Korea; Dalian Maritime University, China; and the University of Malta.

Currently he is Patron of the International Maritime Rescue Foundation and Chair of the “Maria Tsakos” Foundation.

William O’Neil1990-2003

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (4)

When William O’Neil became the sixth Secretary-General in 1990, he already had some 18 years’ experience of the Organization. Born in Canada on 6 June 1927, he studied civil engineering and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1949. He joined the Canadian Civil Service as an Engineer in Training in the Canal Services Branch of the Department of Transport. He was posted to the Welland Canal and then the Lachine Canal where he was the Assistant Resident Engineer for construction of the Atwater Tunnel.

In 1955, he moved to the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, carrying out initial surveys for the new canal system in the St. Lawrence River. Subsequently, as Division Engineer, he was responsible for all work on updating the Welland Canal to Seaway standards.

In 1960, he became Regional Manager of the Western Region, covering the Welland and Sault-Ste-Marie Canals. In 1963, he became Director of Construction for the whole Seaway.

In 1971, he returned to the Ministry of Transport as Deputy Administrator for Marine Services for all of Canada. In 1975, he re-organized marine activities of Canada and created a new Canadian Coast Guard incorporating all of these. At that time, he became its first Commissioner, a position he held until 1980 when he took over as head of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.

He first attended an IMCO Council meeting in 1972 as head of the Canadian delegation and became Chair of the Council in 1980, being re-elected four times. In 1990 he was elected IMO Secretary-General, serving until 2004. On taking office, O’Neil was faced with a major financial crisis. He explained: “In mid-December 1989 the United States mounted an invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause, that lasted until late January 1990. It occurred during the administration of President George H.W. Bush and 10 years after the transfer of control of the Panama Canal from the US to Panama.” During the invasion, Panamanian leader, general and dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed.

“Responding to this situation the Panamanian delegation to IMO announced that it would no longer fund the Organization. Now, as one of the largest flags in the world, Panama represented a major financial contributor to IMO and if it defaulted, we would have a big problem. Eventually, with much diplomacy, I was able to resolve the situation satisfactorily and in due course visited Panama to confirm our understanding. At that point I was given a cheque for $1 million!

“However, I was going on to Peru and so had to carry the cheque with me, safely tucked away, until I got back to London and deposit it into the IMO account.”

Now O’Neil was able to get on with following the path set by his predecessor and he began to change the processes of the Organization. At this time, being aware of the shocking loss of bulk carriers that was taking place every year – typically 25 vessels being lost in just 12 months – he decided that IMO must do something. This would change the role of the Secretary-General, as in the past the Secretary-General would respond to the request of the Council for action on some issue. In this case, O’Neil decided he must take the lead and put the issue before the IMO Assembly for consideration, thereby reversing the earlier procedure and setting the pattern for his successors. In the case of the bulk carrier issue, he was able to bring action on improving the safety of these vessels and he was also pivotal in raising the safety standards of large passenger vessels.

Another issue he pursued, though with less success, was the safety of inter-island ferries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Many of these vessels were sinking with huge losses of life and O’Neil wanted action to overcome this situation. However, as the vessels in question did not operate on international voyages, they were the sole responsibility of their own governments and did not come under the auspices of IMO.

The most visible legacy of his time as Secretary-General is the Seafarers’ Memorial.

In 1991, he became Chancellor of World Maritime University, and Chair of the Governing Board of the IMO International Maritime Law Institute.

He received many honours including the National Union of Marine Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers Award, United Kingdom; the Seatrade Magazine Personality of the Year Award; the Professional Engineers Ontario Gold Medal; the Orden Vasco Núñez de Balboa Grand Cruz, Panama; and Companion of St. Michael and St. George, United Kingdom. He was a Member of the Order of Canada, and an Honorary Commodore of the Canadian Coast Guard.

When Panama took over the Panama Canal in 2000, he was appointed Chair of its independent international Advisory Board.

William O’Neil passed away in the United Kingdom on 29 October 2020.

CP Srivastava1974-1989

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (5)

Chandrika Prasad (usually known as CP) Srivastava, who succeeded Colin Goad, was born on 8 July 1920, and was educated in Lucknow, India, obtaining BA, MA and LLB degrees. He started his career as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service in India, serving as the district administrator in Meerut and Lucknow, and then went on to the post of Joint Secretary to the Indian Prime Minister’s office of the late Lal Bahadur Shastri from 1964 to 1966.

Early in his career, CP found his forte in the field of seafarers training and welfare. During 1947 and 1948, he was the prime mover in the establishment of a network of new maritime training institutions, which have since produced world class maritime personnel, greatly facilitating the growth of Indian shipping in the years following Independence.

After a stint at the Directorate General of Shipping, he was appointed as the Founder Chief Executive of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), a Government of India enterprise, which he built up to the largest shipping company in India with a diversified f leet of cargo liners, tankers, bulk carriers and passenger ships. For his exceptionally outstanding work as Chair & Managing Director of SCI he received the Padma Bhusan (one of the highest civilian awards in the Republic of India) in 1972 in recognition of his contributions to establishing one of the most successful public sector undertakings in India.

In 1974, Dr. Srivastava was elected as IMCO’s Secretary-General and was re-elected unanimously for three successive four-year terms, serving until his retirement in 1989. As Secretary-General he recognized the crucial importance of the human element in ensuring safety and efficiency in international shipping and played a pioneering role in the establishment of the International Maritime Academy in Italy, and the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) in Malta. He was the founding father and also the first Chancellor of the World Maritime University (WMU), founded in 1983 to address a pressing need for trained maritime professionals in the developing world. He was the prime mover in the development of the concept of the WMU and IMLI, and in the immense job of planning, negotiating, fundraising, organizing and implementation that was required to take a vision and turn it into a reality.

It was during Dr. Srivastava’s tenure that a comprehensive and coordinated programme of technical cooperation was conceived and developed and effective steps taken to promote its continuing implementation.

During his tenure, Dr. Srivastava demonstrated his leadership in comprehensive amendments to the 1974 SOLAS Convention, which modernized the IMO’s key Convention for ships construction (chapter II-1); fire protection, detection and extinction (chapter II-2); life-saving appliances and arrangements (chapter III); safety of navigation (chapter V); carriage of cargoes and oil fuels (chapter VI); and carriage of dangerous goods (chapter VII). Furthermore, chapter IV (radiocommunications) was completely amended to introduce the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), incorporating automated ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship systems using satellites and/or terrestrial radio systems with digital selective calling technology.

Furthermore, during his period as Secretary-General, many IMO conventions were developed, adopted or amended, as well as entered into force, such as the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978; the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG), 1972; and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), 1979.

For conventions relating to prevention of marine pollution, in addition to MARPOL, there was the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LC), 1972; and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC), 1990.

For conventions covering liability and compensation, the list goes on with the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC), 1969; and the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea (PAL), 1974, for example.

Dr. Srivastava’s era as Secretary-General established the firm basis and structure of the current IMO. In 1990, in recognition of his service and contribution to world shipping, Dr. Srivastava was conferred, by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, the title of Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG). In 1991, he received the IMO International Maritime prize for his contribution to the Organization’s work and objectives. In 2005 he was awarded the 2004 Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration and Management. In 2009, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, by the President of India.

Dr. Srivastava died on 22 July 2013, in Genoa, Italy.

Colin Goad1968-1973

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (6)

Born on 31 December 1914, in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, Edward Colin Viner Goad won a scholarship from Cirencester Grammar School to attend Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, which he entered in October 1933 and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in 1936 with a double first in history. Passing the British Civil Service entrance examination, he joined the Ministry of Transport as an Assistant Principal in 1937 and remained working at the Ministry of Transport throughout the Second World War after he failed his medical test for active military service. He was promoted to Principal in 1942 and an Under-Secretary in 1963. In January 1959 he attended IMCO’s First Assembly as an Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

At the Ministry he spent much of his time focused on maritime issues. However, by the early 1960s the emphasis had shifted to internal transport, railways and especially motorways, and Goad, as a maritime expert, moved to IMCO. In 1963, he began employment as the Deputy Under-Secretary and Secretary of the Maritime Safety Committee, under Secretary-General Jean Roullier. At that time, the work of the Secretariat was limited to administrative and personnel matters. Its political functions were confined to explaining the Organization’s advantages to member governments and negotiating with other UN agencies over jurisdictional matters.

Goad then became IMCO Secretary-General 1 January 1968, appointed because of the prior positions he had held and due to the United Kingdom being an essential member of the London-based Organization. Whereas the safety of merchant ships remained the largest portion of IMCO’s work, marine pollution activities expanded. This shift was eased by Goad’s replacement of Roullier, who had been hesitant to expand the Organization’s roles, in part because of IMCO’s Organizational ideology (emphasizing the word “consultative” in its title) and because it had taken 10 years to obtain the necessary 21 charter ratifications. Thus, IMCO remained truly intergovernmental and consultative, as exemplified by events in 1971.

In July of that year, the Sub-Committee on Navigation stressed the urgency of adopting measures to improve navigation safety in the Malacca and Singapore Straits. However, after a delegation from the three coastal states met with Goad in September, IMCO dropped the issue.

However, Goad’s role as Secretary- General did produce a major change in IMCO’s structure. He saw no good reason for parity between the technical and administrative divisions, which he thought had been Ove Nielsen’s idea to overcome the empire-building personalities of the top Secretariat officials in the early 1960s. Goad felt that the technical division had become the most important in the Secretariat. Accordingly, he proposed that the position of Deputy Secretary-General be created so as to allow the Secretary of the Maritime Safety Committee to be solely in charge of the technical division.

Goad left IMCO on 31 December 1973, forgoing the chance to continue until age 65 and retired to his beloved Gloucestershire. On 15 June 1974, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG) and years later was coaxed back into part-time employment. On 15 October 1991, he was made a non-executive director of International Registers Inc that ran the Liberian shipping register as well as one for the Marshall Islands, a position he held until his death in 1998. He also became a consultant to the Liberian Shipping Council, representing it at the International Chamber of Shipping, and was elected to the International Chamber’s Executive Council. Sir Colin Goad died in Cirencester on 15 March 1998.

Jean Roullier1963-1967

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (7)

Jean Roullier, who was born in Paris on 10 December 1898, became the third Secretary-General on 1 March 1963. Previously he had had a distinguished career in the French Ministry of Merchant Marine, including playing a significant role in the rehabilitation of the French merchant marine after the Second World War as Assistant Director of the Economic and Supply Department of the Ministry. In 1948 he attended the Geneva Conference as a delegate, was a member of the IMCO Preparatory Committee, and was Chair of the IMCO Council from its instigation in 1959 until his appointment as Secretary-General.

On 10 January 1963, the IMCO Assembly approved Roullier’s appointment, and in a speech thanking the Assembly for their choice, he expressed his views on the future of the Organization as he saw it.

“Nowadays, when a ship is being built, there are so many safety regulations to be complied with that it would be difficult to make them more stringent without risk of compromising the future of navigation itself. Sea transport is no longer the sole means of linking continents: the cargo vessel may tomorrow have to face competition from aircraft. Of course, steering and sailing rules may quite possibly attain a higher degree of efficiency, thanks to modern methods of detecting obstacles; but this is contingent upon adequate training of personnel. I believe I am not wrong in saying that IMCO should keep a sharp look out in this direction.

“lf the future should decree that the public will only know as much about IMCO as it does at present, I believe on the contrary that, within the concert of specialized agencies, the Organization ought to make its presence increasingly felt. We must not work alone and, at least where contacts between organizations are concerned, we should bow before the golden rule of inter-connection.

“I am sure that we can all agree on this point. To establish a link is the true purpose of shipping; and how often has stress been laid upon the uniting influence which the sea has exercised in history. The sea has been the source of so much mutual comprehension that isolation would become us singularly little.

“In conclusion, I would like to address a few simple words to those who, though ignorant of our meeting today, will yet benefit by our activities or perhaps suffer from our errors: I refer to seafarers. All people, as they come within the pale of civilization, draw benefits to a greater or lesser degree from sea transport; but some are directly dependent on the sea, and their lives are hard. Whenever shipping loses ground in the scale of human activity, it is the sailors who suffer, generally without being able to influence the causes of their suffering or perhaps ever to know what they are. Let us remember that we are at the service of sailors, that our least action can help as well as injure them, and let us never forget them.”

During his term in office, he oversaw the coming into force of SOLAS 60, and the adoption of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and the International Convention on Load Lines. He was also Secretary-General when the Torrey Canyon accident happened which would see IMCO becoming significantly more involved in marine environmental issues.

William Graham1961-1963

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (8)

William Graham became IMCO’s second Secretary-General following the sudden death of Ove Nielsen in November 1961.

He had been part of the British Merchant Shipping Mission to Washington and later a delegate to the United Maritime Consultative Council. In 1948, as Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, he attended the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee of IMCO which was in effect its first working session. Then, as IMCO came into being, he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General. He stepped into the role of Secretary-General and provided the necessary degree of stability through what was a difficult time.

Ove Nielsen1959-1961

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (9)

The first Secretary-General of IMCO was a Dane, Ove Helger Nielsen, who was appointed by the first IMCO Assembly meeting, held in London in January 1959, following a unanimous vote by the Council.

He has been described as a first-class administrator with a background as a sailor, holding a master’s certificate and having served as an officer in sailing, steam and motor vessels. Before becoming Secretary-General, he had been Chief of the Shipping Department in the Danish Ministry of Commerce and Shipping and had nearly a quarter of a century’s experience in international organizations. In particular he had previously been at the International Labour Organization working on matters concerned with safety in shipping.

Sadly, Nielsen died suddenly on 20 November 1961, and was succeeded by William Graham.

Source:SAFER SHIPPING, CLEANER SEAS,Written and compiled by John Barnes, FIMarEST, MRINA, 2023

Previous IMO Secretaries-General (2024)
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