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ruben.maritime

The first web2.0 spanish blog about Maritime Affairs. El primer blog web2.0 español sobre el sector marítimo.

A TRIBUTE TO IGOR

IMO Secretary General read during the Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Igor Ponomarev, IMO MSC Chairman, London, 24 November 2006.

They say that, for those who leave on the voyage with no return, those left behind tend to remember only their good side. He had only one side: that of a kind, good man whose delightful personality and genuine, wide and friendly smile effortlessly radiated the goodness of his soul, the warmth of his heart.

Alas, it was that same heart that betrayed him at the zenith of his life, when his creative talents, his cheerful persuasiveness, the example he was tirelessly setting by means of his words and deeds were earning him global recognition and the esteem that very few enjoy in life and even fewer deserve.

It was with these words that I added my tribute to a similar service to celebrate the life of Giuliano Patofatto a few years ago, soon after he had relinquished the reins of our Maritime Safety Committee – and it is with the same words that I have chosen to start my tribute to Igor Ponomarev, who only a few months ago had taken charge of the same Committee!

***

Affable

highly talented

professional

genuine

responsive

exceptional

special

diplomatic

great friend

supporter of the industry

charismatic

humorous

warm

witty

popular

irrepressible source of fun

a gem and a gentleman

committed

tireless

family man,

were some of the accolades attributed to Igor in the numerous messages expressing the senders’ disbelief, sadness, sorrow, anguish, compassion and grief at the devastating news of his unexpected, untimely, unjust and unfair passing 25 days ago.

***

A family man? He most certainly was!

It was a great pleasure, a joy to the eyes, to see him and his wife together: two beautiful young people, so much in love with each other, so happy in each other’s company.

Alas, the dream was not to last long. For, sometimes, even Gods become jealous of the happiness of mortals.

And so, at the end of the beautiful story – too beautiful to be true – the most beautiful city in the world became the resting place for its most beautiful son.

***

The love between his parents was too obvious for Alex to see at every single moment of their happy family life. So, when, at the age of 7, he, together with his peers at school, were asked to write about their parents, he had no difficulty in saying: “My parents met when they were students at University and instantly fell in love with each other – and I am the fruit of their love”!...

***

Igor had three great loves in his life: his family, shipping and St. Petersburg. And, while there could be no question that Alona and Alex were his No. 1 love, I am not sure which ranked No. 2 and 3: shipping or St. Petersburg. But I have no doubt as to how deep his love was for his native city.

Igor could not miss a single opportunity not to refer to St. Petersburg as “the most beautiful city in the world” - so much so that, in the very rare cases he would omit to do so, friends would ask whether there was something wrong with him.

Alona always knew she had to share him with shipping and St. Petersburg – and now St. Petersburg has him in her affectionate, loving arms!...

***

Humorous? He certainly was.

Once, he entered the office of the MSD Director where the most formidable naval architectural brains of the world (Koji Sekimizu, Alexander Petrov, Jack Westwood-Booth and Heike Hoppe) were agonizing to find out why a ship had sank.

The question: “Why did she sink – why did she?” was repeatedly asked, when Igor, with his inimitable smile and a refined veil of irony, offered the solution: “Why did she sink? It’s simple: because she took on water!...”

***

On another occasion, having been showered with compliments, from all over the House, on his election as chairman of the Maritime Safety Committee, he asked Tom Allan to give him the floor, only to say: “Distinguished delegates, I am moved and flattered by your kind and generous words about me and I only regret that my mother-in-law is not present here today to see what a lovely person her daughter married twenty years ago!...”

***

His first taste of the rigours of the MSC came in May and, in closing the session, I praised him for the way he had performed his duties, paying a special tribute to his determination and patience to achieve consensus in all of the Committee’s decisions, in his usual affable and efficient manner. He was due to chair the MSC’s forthcoming session in Istanbul next week – and, according to Alona, during the last two months, he was tormenting himself with how to make the Committee more efficient, what initiatives to introduce, what jokes to make to keep it alive.

His high standards of leadership, professionalism and technical knowledge, combined with a great sense of humour and integrity, synthesized an amalgam that will ensure a cherished memory for a long, long time. And it is this combination of talent and charisma, seen against his young age, that makes the loss more painful and the trauma deeper, unbearable…

***

With his passing, we are left all the poorer:
Russia has lost a very special man
St. Petersburg has lost her most beautiful son
IMO has lost a dedicated servant and the MSC its leader
Shipping has lost a beacon
I, and many others from all corners of the world, have lost a friend
Alona and Alex have lost everything but the hope of reuniting with him when the time comes...

***

In the meantime, who can ignore:

So much love…

So much happiness…

So much thirst for life…

and now

So much grief… so much anguish…

… and a sea of loneliness!...

In that loneliness of Alona, Alex and his friends, the words of the poet come to mind:

“A drum was heard, a funeral note,

… Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

From the field of his fame fresh and gory,

We carved a line and we raised a stone

And left him alone with his glory…”1

Igor was 41.

***

I wish to conclude by thanking Bishop Thoedoritos of Nazianzos for his kindness in hosting this Memorial Service in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, a most fitting place to honour Igor as it lies at the crossroads of Moscow Road and St. Petersburgh Place.
******************************




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