“If you could make any proposal to the global leaders, what would it be?” This was the question I was asked in the chatroom session, and it exactly shows what I experienced at the Global Maritime Forum (GMF) Annual Summit 2023 in Athens. The GMF Annual Summit is a chance for the young generation of students and professionals’ voices to be heard, and this year’s theme was “What Now: From Ambition to Action.” The various attendees pursued the theme’s agenda through a variety of speeches, presentations, and discussions.

I am Saki Inoue, a 3rd-year student from Kobe University (Faculty of Oceanology) and recipient of the 2023 NF-IAMU GMP Student Fellowship Grant. After being selected as one of the three winners of the Future Maritime Leaders Essay Competition, I was invited to attend the 6th Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit 2023 in Athens on 17-19 October. The Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit is invitation-only, with over 200 C-suite leaders from within and outside the maritime industry attending. For this year’s Essay Competition, as many as 112 essays from young people aged 18-30 were submitted from 37 different countries in Asia, America, Europe, Africa, and other regions. My essay ranked in the Top 3, which is apparently a first time for someone my age. “What stupefied me was,” said Christine Loh, a chair of the Selection Committee, “she is the youngest winner in the history competition at age 21.” The other Top 3 winners were Shareefa Jewan (Mauritania, 29) and Vladimir Zorić (Montenegro, 30). This year’s essay question was in Op-Ed format: “What does an inclusive transition to a sustainable maritime industry mean to you – and what are your recommendations to industry leaders and policymakers on how this could be achieved for future generations?”

As I mentioned earlier, I was warmly welcomed at the Summit as a representative of my generation’s voice. The key message of my essay was “the maritime industry should be more engaged with seafarers, younger generations, and developing countries,” and I also underscored the need for massive efforts to improve seafarers’ duties, MET (Maritime Education and Training), and the need to create more involved roles for developing countries in the transition to sustainability. I was able to further expand on these ideas in the GMF Summit’s chatroom session, where the TOP3 winners made a presentation on their essays. During the session, our moderator asked us, “If you could make any proposal to global leaders, what would it be?”  I answered confidently, “School textbooks should be revised to raise maritime visibility, and MET should collaborate with academic institutions like universities to raise the profile of seafaring as an attractive career choice.” Guess what she said? “Can we launch it even tomorrow?” Bewildered, my eyes shifted, and the red conspicuous letters in the hall caught my attention: “What Now: From Ambition to Action.” Various concerns are looming and most of them are close at hand. Feasibility along with agility is a prerequisite for contemporary policy making. This insight channeled me to closely observe the participants and learn from them.

 The 2023 Summit included a wide range of programs: a keynote address about AI from a TED speaker Daniel Susskind, an agenda-setting panel discussion, a dialogue aimed at fostering better future leadership, and so forth. I was also able to network with industrial leaders during the opening event and coffee breaks, where the small group of Future Maritime Leaders worked together to strike up close relationships. I was able to meet and talk with senior stakeholders, who graciously listened and discussed various topics as we explored fresh perspectives. They voluntarily learned from each other, and this collaborative atmosphere greatly whetted my appetite for molding my answer to “If you could make any proposal to the global leaders, what would it be?” To educate younger generations, they need to get in touch with the current leaders as I did during the three days of the GMF Summit.

At the Wrap-Up plenary session, we shared the outcomes of the day’s activities. An array of leaders proposed their views, and then I thought “Why not speak up if I am to be a future leader?” I raised my hand and spoke about the necessity for enhanced upskilling. This time, I rattled off my thoughts not because I prepared beforehand, but because of what I had learned through my interactions, which naturally formed my new perspective: “This Summit itself was exactly my ideal image of education we need. You, current leaders, are the great educators for younger generations, and so we should have more opportunities like this to benefit one other.” Thanks to their receptiveness, it drew their attention and gave me acclamation. At that time, I realized that I was able to give some valuable contributions as a participant in the summit.

On the final day, the TOP3 winners consisting of me, Shareefa, and Vladimir presented our Future Maritime Leaders Statement at a Press Briefing, with interviews by the press. We each had a chance to share our essays and future prospects for the industry. After participating in the event, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my professors and family. Professor Rooks, Professor Fuchi, and my parents have greatly supported me from applying to the competition to attending the summit. Thanks to them, I could pull off the biggest challenge in my life and fully immerse myself in this invaluable experience. You can find my essay, “Why you are the heart of the ecological revolution, not just a part of it” on the Global Maritime Forum’s official website (https://www.globalmaritimeforum.org/news/why-you-are-the-heart-of-the-ecological-revolution-not-just-a-part-of-it).

 “What Now: From Ambition to Action”

My 3-day experience in Athens participating in the Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit 2023 has changed my perspective. The ideas and plans that I held before have taken on new life and form, evolving from two dimensional words as news titles on my laptop screen, to more concrete, three dimensional beliefs and plans for action. The summit has helped to show me just how to take action to bring about real change in the world.  

I and the two other winners will continue to take the initiative in the Future Maritime Leaders Network consisting of 20+ members, and we are committed to driving positive change within the maritime industry. Next year’s summit will take place in Tokyo, Japan, and I encourage other students and young professionals to seize the opportunity to become more involved in shaping our future.

Essay Competition

Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit 2023

Global Maritime Forum