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Efthimios Mitropoulos: Shipping’s priorities

Athens: In his time as the head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) he completed vast amounts, and since then this work ethic has continued despite his advancing years.

Greek national Efthimios Mitropoulos was the seventh secretary-general of the IMO, the United Nations agency concerned with maritime safety and security and the prevention of marine pollution from ships. He held the position as IMO head from 2003 to 2011.

Since stepping down from shipping’s most powerful role he has been inundated with offers of work.

“After leaving the IMO I have been offered many things,” Mitropoulos tells Maritime CEO. “Unwisely I accepted most of them. The problem is I don’t have enough time with my family,” adds the 75-year-old.

Mitropoulos is the chairman of the Maria Tsakos Foundation, a body founded to promote maritime research and preserve maritime traditions. On top of that, he is the chancellor of Chennai Maritime University, a position that meant he shook the hands of 873 cadets last year. The Greek national is also the patron of the ITF’s Seafarers’ Trust, Sail Training International and the International Maritime Rescue Federation.

Looking back at his time at IMO, Mitropoulos says, “We were able to give solutions to most of the things on our agenda.” He adds: “Of course, the work never finishes. The organisation continues to do well.”

Before our meeting concludes in Athens (Mitropoulos is spending more time in his homeland these days, but is still a UK resident), he wants to outline the two ongoing priorities that shipping must grapple with.

“The industry in order to continue serving world trade must continue to modernize, but overall it must continue to attract boys and girls because without seamen shipping cannot function.”

Mitropoulos then turns his attention to climate change. “The world must show greater sensitivity to climate change; we must work together to reverse this situation.”

Shipping, he maintains, is working towards improving its environmental footprint. He points out that shipping’s emissions as a percentage of the global total is only “minor” and any future green funds that shipping might have to contribute towards should be commensurate with this percentage.

Mitropoulos was born in Piraeus, Greece, on 30 May 1939, to a genuinely maritime family, being the son of a merchant navy chief engineer officer father and of a mother the daughter of a shipmaster and owner of brigantines and schooners captained by his sons. The family comes from Galaxidi, a major Greek maritime centre during the tall ships’ era. [12/06/14]

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