The maritime world has lost a pioneering leader and visionary with the passing of C.P. Srivastava, Padma Vibhushan and Secretary-General Emeritus of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in Genoa in Italy on Monday. He was 93.
Dr. Srivastava is survived by two daughters. His wife Nirmala Devi, founder of Sahaja Yoga, who exerted a profound influence on his ideals, predeceased him.
Dr. Srivastava was an institution-builder and international administrator with a Midas touch. That he was elected uncontested IMO Secretary-General for four consecutive terms — from 1974 until he voluntarily demitted office on December 31, 1989 — tells of his sheer charm and acceptance as an unbiased, influential leader. He was its longest serving Secretary-General, a record unbroken.
Before making a mark internationally, Dr. Srivastava was an IAS officer (1949 batch) from the Uttar Pradesh cadre who worked in close association with Lal Bahadur Shastri, then Union Transport Minister.
When Shastri was chosen to head the Union Cabinet, Dr. Srivastava followed him to the Prime Minister’s Office secretariat. He was part of the Prime Minister’s entourage to Tashkent in 1966, where Shastri signed the famous no-war treaty with Pakistan and mysteriously died the next day. Decades later, Dr. Srivastava authored the biography, ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri: A Life of Truth in Politics’. However, the world knows Dr. Srivastava as an eminent administrator who was instrumental in setting up pioneering maritime training institutions such as the World Maritime University in Sweden and the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta.
He was the force behind key maritime conventions and codes that greatly contributed to enhanced crew safety, high training standards and security on the high seas.
He was in the saddle when the IMO developed and validated landmark conventions including those on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers; Maritime Search and Rescue; Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation; and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf.
A spate of accidents in early 1970s led him to organise a decisive conference on tanker safety and pollution prevention, following which measures affecting tanker design and operation were incorporated into the IMO’s Protocol of 1978 relating to the Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Under his stewardship, the agency grew in membership strength and dimension, casting off its perceived elitism to reach out to developing nations, which constitute the majority of the body’s membership today.
Björn Kjerfve, incumbent president of the World Maritime University, describes Dr. Srivastava as a meritorious leader with tremendous persuasive skills. “We are very sad to learn about his passing. I visited him about two years ago and invited him early this month for our graduation ceremony on the occasion of the university’s 30th anniversary… The founding was never easy. It was to his credit that he was able to convince the IMO council members and the UNDP for raising funds for its setting up,” Mr. Kjerfve told The Hindu on the phone from Malmo in Sweden. P.M. Abraham, former Union Secretary of Surface Transport, recalls Dr. Srivastava as a charming leader with a vision. Dr. Srivastava fostered a benign sense of humour. “In many countries, I am known as Nirmala’s husband, not as secretary-general of IMO,” he would joke about his more famous spouse.
He was a rare blend of humility, farsightedness, sound judgment and resolve, and leadership was his natural forte. Among the numerous accolades that came his way was the title of Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George conferred by Queen Elizabeth-II.