William A O’Neil, secretary-general emeritus of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), died on 29 October at the age of 93. O’Neil, a Canadian by birth, died at his home in the UK. He was secretary-general of IMO from 1990 to 2003 and led the organisation towards many significant improvements in maritime safety and environmental protection, playing a major role in ridding the world of substandard ships and shipping practices.
“Mr O’Neil was a truly great secretary-general whose actions and initiatives had a great and lasting impact on the work of the organisation,” said Kitack Lim, current IMO secretary-general. “I, personally, always valued his guidance and advice, as well as his friendship and leadership. Mr O’Neil left a lasting legacy on the organisation. He was committed to the universality of IMO and oversaw a significant increase in membership. He encouraged wide and effective participation in the organisation from all stakeholders in the maritime sector.
“Above all, Mr O’Neil was dedicated to enabling developing states to adopt and implement IMO instruments, through his active pursuance of new sources of extra-budgetary funding. And he worked tirelessly to strengthen the relevance and capacity of IMO’s educational institutes, the World Maritime University and the IMO International Maritime Law Institute.”
During his time as head of IMO, O’Neil acted firmly to address emerging safety issues, not least surrounding bulk carriers, large passenger ships and, following the loss of the ferry Estonia, ro-ro vessels. He also saw the adoption of Annex VI of the Marpol Convention, opening the door to IMO’s current activities in addressing shipboard emissions, as well as the accelerated phase-out of single-hull tankers. He laid the basis for the development of measures to prevent the spread of invasive species through ballast water.
Other landmark developments during O’Neil’s time leading IMO include the introduction of the mandatory International Safety Management Code, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and key 1997 revisions to the STCW Convention. O’Neil also established the Seafarers Memorial Fund, which paid for the public memorial that now stands outside the doors of IMO’s headquarters building in London.
O’Neil graduated in civil engineering from the University of Toronto and worked for the Canadian Department for Transport and the St Lawrence Seaway Authority before being appointed commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard in 1975. He had begun representing Canada at the IMO Council in 1972 and became chair of that body in 1980, being re-elected four times. From 1980 he was also president and CEO of the St Lawrence Seaway Authority, a position he held until 1990.
In 1991 O’Neil became chancellor of the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden and chair of the governing board of the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta.
The high regard in which O’Neil was held is evident from the awards he received both during his tenure as IMO secretary-general and subsequently. He had honorary doctorates from four universities in Canada, the UK, Malta and South Korea, as well as medals, honorary orders and prizes from as far afield as Lebanon, Panama, Italy, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, the US, Canada and the UK.
William O’Neil leaves a widow, Olga O’Neil, children and grandchildren. A memorial service will be held once the coronavirus crisis has passed.[post_title] => Obituary: Bill O'Neil [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => obituary-bill-oneil [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-09 10:50:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-09 10:50:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://hcblive.com/?p=30297 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )