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Presentation of International Maritime Prize 2010

July 11, 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011 at 5.45 p.m.
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Excellencies, Chairman of the Council, distinguished delegates and guests, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen, good evening – and welcome to IMO to join us in this ceremony to award the IMO International Maritime Prize for 2010 – which, by unanimous decision of the Council, goes to the late Ms Linda S. Johnson of the United States.  And I extend a particularly warm welcome to her husband, Mr. David Beddoe, who has come over from the United States to receive the Prize, on her behalf.
The Prize, the presentation of which has been an annual event for the last 30 years, is the highest honour awarded to persons, who have long been associated with IMO and who, through such an association, have shown a solid and consistent commitment and dedication to the ideals and objectives of the Organization, coupled with hard work and success in their pursued endeavours to enhance safety and environmental protection.
Linda Johnson, or simply Lindy for many of us, was, until her untimely and unfair death last year, a well-known figure at IMO and within the wider maritime community.
She began her association with the Organization as an intern in 1984, while studying in London.  After gaining a Master of Science degree in Sea-Use Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science and, subsequently, a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD), cum laude, from Tulane Law School, her early career saw her working with the United States Coast Guard Legal Office in New Orleans; the United States District Court in San Diego; and for a private law firm in New York.
In 1992, she joined the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where she worked, for 18 solid years, in the Office of General Counsel for International Law.  In 1995, she became a regular member of the United States delegation to the Marine Environment Protection Committee, in which capacity, and for the following 15 years, she played a leading role in the development of more than a dozen international instruments (all dealing with the marine environment), while also helping craft numerous proposals to preserve coastal resources.
Lindy was most closely associated with the designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, known, for brevity, as PSSAs.  Having been instrumental in the development of a robust process for designating such areas, she played a protagonistic role in the specific designation of several PSSAs, such as the sea around the Florida Keys; the Galapagos Archipelago; and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the Hawaii Islands – a name that only she could pronounce flawlessly.  Her work and achievements in this particular field were so far-reaching that, within the Secretariat at least, she was fondly and deservedly nick-named “Ms PSSA”. 
She also distinguished herself in IMO’s work to protect cetaceans and in the development of measures to reduce ship strikes on marine mammals – such as the adoption of a mandatory ship reporting system to protect the endangered north Atlantic right whale in waters off the north-eastern and south-eastern coasts of the United States.
Lindy was an unstinting supporter of IMO and her reputation for integrity, attention to detail and ability to find common ground among divergent interests and arguments led to her chairing or coordinating the work of several IMO bodies on a variety of environmentally-related matters.  Among the many examples of her serving in this capacity, I should particularly mention her work when chairing the drafting group for the revision of MARPOL Annex VI in 2008, where her exceptional drafting and interpersonal talents, coupled with much-needed political skills, proved instrumental in bringing one of IMO’s most significant environmental protection initiatives, through the prevention of air pollution from ships, to a successful conclusion.
As a direct result of her tireless and persistent work, fragile marine ecosystems around the globe are now well protected against damage that may be caused by shipping; endangered marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins and seals, have a better chance of survival; and new treaties to protect marine resources have been put in place and implemented.  Lindy’s last project was to address the issue of noise from commercial shipping and its adverse impacts on marine life – a subject that she was excited about and dealing with energetically and with her well-known zeal and enthusiasm. 
Her accomplishments and untiring dedication to the cause of marine environmental protection won her a number of awards, including the 2000 and 2002 United States Environmental Protection Agency Gold Medal for Exceptional Service.  Today’s accolade comes, therefore, as the fitting crowning of a life that was dedicated to the protection and preservation of the marine environment and the conservation of marine wildlife. 
It was Lindy’s cheerful and friendly attitude, coupled with a firm, stubborn I would say, determination to see the cause she was fighting for achieved that endeared her most among delegates and staff alike – all of whom held her in high esteem and respect.  I cannot remember Lindy not smiling.  But, when doing business, the smile was accompanied by the steel that drives committed individuals to the accomplishment of their objectives, the fulfilment of the ideals they believe in and fight for.
It must, therefore, have been the combination of all the virtues she displayed in her overall performance to promote, in a professional manner of few parallels, the objectives of this Organization, that prompted the Council’s decision to award the Prize to her posthumously – a decision taken only twice before, in the case of the late MSC Chairmen Giuliano Pattofatto and Igor Ponomarev.
Those who knew her personally (and I was fortunate enough to be one of those) were aware that, throughout the last years of her life – which were some of her most prolific years – Lindy was seriously ill.  But even during her epic personal battle with illness, her commitment to the protection of the environment and the work we are doing in this fine institution never wavered.  While in Washington last year, I spoke to her over the telephone.  Her spirit was unbendable and her determination to go on fighting strong.  Tragically, she lost her battle on 23 October 2010 at the age of 49.  She remained a fighter to the very end and has become a point of reference for everything that is valiant and noble in life and a source of inspiration to all of us – colleagues, friends and admirers.  She is deeply missed and will long be remembered.
The decision of the Council to award the Prize to Lindy was, as I said before, made unanimously, for her extraordinary and exceptional efforts and achievements in her chosen career path and the honour we are bestowing to her memory today is indeed fully deserved.  I am happy that we, who will bear testimony to her passion and commitment for many years to come, can express our appreciation and gratitude to Lindy in this way today.  And I thank you all for being here to assist in this ceremony – thank you.
And now, I invite Ms Monica Medina, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to address the meeting.