Your Majesties, Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to here this morning to welcome King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway to the National Maritime College and to open this very worthwhile Conference.
I am confident that today’s proceedings will result in opportunities for Irish – Norwegian collaborations, which will serve to strengthen the excellent social and economic relations between our two countries.
I am particularly pleased to be back here today in the National Maritime College. As Minister for Education I had the honour of laying the foundation stone for the College back in September 2003.
It is gratifying to see the College contributing in a very dynamic and positive manner to the future success of our Maritime Industries.
In fact the College is the first third level Institute in Ireland to be built under as a Public Private Partnership. It is a unique partnership between Cork Institute of Technology the Irish Naval Service and a private sector partner, Focus Education.
The college has many fine facilities including a gymnasium which contains a state of the art simulator suite, built by the world leader in marine simulators Kongsberg Maritime Simulation from Norway.
Like Norway we in Ireland have a proud maritime tradition. Marine education and training has a long history in Ireland and continues successfully up to the present. Irish mariners are to be found in all the major shipping companies and in many senior positions in world shipping.
Norway too has a long and proud maritime tradition. Recorded links between Ireland and Norway date from 795 AD, with the first arrival of Norwegian Vikings. Although the Vikings are clearly remembered in popular Irish folklore it is less well recognised that they were also great traders and did much to develop commerce in medieval Ireland. The Vikings founded most of our major port towns including Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick.
The conference today is certainly timely given the recent publication of the EU Green Paper, ‘Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union’, and the Commissions suggestion that an annual conference on best practice in maritime governance be held.
Your deliberations are set against the background of the increasing pressures under which our oceans and seas are being put as more and more activities compete to exploit them.
It is increasingly recognised that policy makers must move away from the somewhat fragmented approach followed up to now.
This fragmented approach made it difficult to reconcile competing uses of the oceans, to define priorities and to adopt a more holistic approach to our interaction with our oceans. Your deliberations will address some of these issues.
The conference will also allow opportunities for Irish–Norwegian collaborations and I wish you well with them and with your deliberations generally.
I look forward to receiving feedback on today’s outcomes and I am confident that we can look forward to increased bilateral co-operation in the marine sector as a result of this conference.