THE financial crisis at the World Maritime University has forced it to become more aggressive in looking to secure its future by obtaining more of its own funding and it is talking to a number of private sector interests. It is also being helped by the City of Malmo moving the WMU into a newer, larger facility.
Earlier this year the WMU had to go to the IMO to obtain a financial bail-out of up to a total of £500,000 ($794,272) over two years from its Technical Co-operation Fund, when its reserves became depleted following decisions by some country donors to cease financial contributions. After that permanent long-term financing arrangements must be agreed.
Next week’s IMO Council will consider a paper submitted by Sweden, which is leading a correspondence group set up as part of the emergency financing agreement, looking at proposals for long-term solutions. This report represents a review of progress and is not recommending any firm decisions on funding arrangements, as there is no clear agreement on how this can be achieved.
The correspondence group will report that due to a lack of consensus more work is needed to explore options including a gradual step-by-step approach of contributions, graduating the current flat rate, a 5% increase and other options to avoid any need for increased contributions by member states, but there was no support for mandatory contributions from NGOs. It will conduct more work on establishing an endowment fund, which was generally supported in principle. The correspondence group is asking the IMO Council to renew its mandate to develop a fully costed proposal for consideration by the next IMO Council in 2011.
An insider at the WMU told Lloyd’s List that the scale of the financial crisis has been exaggerated. “The IMO has not provided a huge amount of funding. They bailed us out when we had a short-term problem but it is chicken-feed in relation to the budget. The money issue is a distraction.”
He suggested that because the WMU has traditionally been funded by a large number of countries and organisations it created a finely balanced financial situation. “But the mini financial crisis forced us to focus on reducing costs and go out and look for our own funds. We are talking to a number of private sector industry interests.”
The WMU insider insisted that there is no possibility of the university going back to the IMO for more short-term funding. “We are taking control of our own destiny, looking for long-term relationships with people interested in supporting us, although we recognise that the shipping industry is not in a strong position to contribute at present. We are looking for political support from the IMO as a basis for obtaining funding from other sources, and not more hand-outs.”
The WMU’s executive board, headed by Jan Kopernicki, is adopting a more aggressive approach, using the benefit of their private sector experience, to secure funding. “This will not change our status, but we will do things a little bit differently,” the insider said to Lloyd’s List.
Its efforts are being assisted by a decision by the City of Malmo to move the WMU into a newer and bigger building, currently part of Malmo University.
The City will continue its current arrangement to cover the costs of the building and running costs. There had been speculation that the WMU might move to a lower cost country.
An IMO spokesman confirmed that the City of Malmo is redeveloping the area in which the current WMU building is located and is offering to relocate the university to another building
“There is an agreement between the City and WMU such that the costs of the current building, including running costs, are met by the City and there is no plan to change that agreement. We are not aware of any suggestion that WMU be moved to another country.” The WMU is expected to move into its new building within the next two years.
“This offers us an opportunity to continue growing and we will not be retrenching,” the WMU insider commented to Lloyd’s List.