From 13 to 17 February 2007, the first regional network meeting of WMU Sasakawa Fellows was held. The group of 23 fellows met in Bangkok, with the proceedings ably and actively assisted by Mr Eisuke Kudo and Mr Shinichi Ichikawa of the Ocean Policy Research Foundation.
The Fellows were delighted to meet again at the welcome reception on the first day. Old friendships were rekindled, and new friendships made across the generations of WMU graduates. The following day was spent on field study. First came a visit to Laem Chabang Port, a very impressive new facility, established only in 1991. This deep-sea port has had a significant impact not just on Thailand, but on the whole Southeast Asian region, and has established itself as economically significant in the region's worldwide trade. This was followed by a visit to Kerry Siam Seaport Ltd, a very impressive new facility that provides international logistic support to companies, again across the whole Asian region.
On Thursday, 15 February, the main business of the meeting started. The Fellows were first updated on the activities of the Friends of WMU, Japan, by Mr Kudo, and also were pleased to hear about current developments at WMU. The Fellows then launched onto a detailed programme of discussion about the ways that national and regional networks of Sasakawa Fellows could be more firmly established and work together better. The topics of discussion ranged from the practical arrangements for Fellows' networks in each of the participating countries, to technical papers on maritime issues from each of the participants. The Fellows also had a very fruitful dialogue with the Friends of WMU, Japan, secretariat about the role that the Friends' newsletter, website and Fellows' directory could play in network building. The enthusiasm and commitment of all the participants was striking, with intensive group work continuing on into the evenings.
That evening, the Fellows were delighted by an unexpected visit from Dr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, who had managed to make time in his hectic schedule to greet the participants. Dr Sasakawa expressed his personal pleasure in being able to meet WMU Sasakawa Fellows from countries around the world, and stressed his delight in receiving from them letters about their personal lives and professional progress. He also expressed his satisfaction at the continued progress and development of WMU, noting that the Fellows must be proud to be its graduates. He emphasised his support for the Fellows' Network, remarking on the importance of horizontal links between the Fellows, as well as vertical links between them and the OPRF and WMU. He concluded his remarks with a short account of his views on the corporate, social and financial responsibility of those who use the seas, noting that he was working to bring this subject into the public arena for discussion.
Friday's schedule began with a fascinating special lecture on multimodal transport in ASEAN countries from Dr Chula Sukmanop, the Head of the Multimodal Transport Group at Thailand's Ministry of Transport. The Fellows spent the rest of the day exchanging information on maritime affairs in the region, dealing with issues from MET institutes to piracy. They also considered the proposed ways to develop and expand the Fellows' Network within and across the region. The day ended with the farewell reception and dinner, to which the Fellows were very pleased to welcome Ms. Nualnapa Tiancharoen, Principal Adviser on Water Transport Economics from Thailand's Ministry of Transport as guest of honour.
On Saturday morning, the Fellows presented the reports on each session of the meeting that they had prepared in groups. The meeting culminated in the unanimous adoption of a resolution on the future development and expansion of the Fellows' Network. This resolution encapsulated the most important decisions taken during the meeting, and will provide a firm foundation for the Network's work over the next few years. The Fellows seemed confident that this regional meeting was a first step on the road to a much more active and cohesive network, and left Bangkok fired with enthusiasm for the challenges and opportunities that this network would bring to them and to their countries' maritime sectors.