Maritime law expert David Attard honored by IMO for his international contribution

International law expert, Professor David Attard, will receive the International Maritime Prize for his contribution to the purposes and work of the IMO.

The award will be presented to Professor Attard at a ceremony presided over by IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim.

The International Maritime Award is presented annually by IMO to the individual or organization deemed to have made a significant contribution to the work and objectives of the Organization.

Professor David Joseph Attard was elected by the IMO Council, at its 127th session, as the recipient of the International Maritime Award for 2021. Professor Attard was nominated for the prestigious award by the Republic of Malta via a submission from Transport Malta and the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects.

Minister Aaron Farrugia thanked Professor Attard for his excellent work in the maritime industry, particularly in the area of ​​international maritime law, and congratulated him on this prestigious achievement which is a first for Malta.

Transport Malta’s Managing Director, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, said: “This prestigious award recognizes Professor Attard’s lifelong dedication to the law of the sea and ocean governance. The IMO Council’s vote of confidence in Malta’s candidate, alongside other worthy candidates nominated by other maritime nations, such as Germany and Singapore, also highlighted Malta’s contribution to the IMO, to his work and his values.

In the nomination, the impact Professor Attard has had on the maritime world, particularly through his three-decade role at IMLI, was highlighted.

The Maltese national was responsible for proposing the establishment of IMLI to the IMO Secretary General, CP Srivastava. Professor Attard served as special adviser to the IMO Secretary General, CP Srivastava, who oversaw the development of a substantial international maritime legal framework to ensure safer navigation on cleaner oceans. In response to the difficulties reported by many States to incorporate IMO instruments into national legislation due to a lack of local expertise in the field of international maritime law, Professor Attard proposed the creation of IMLI in Malta.

The Institute was established in 1988. Initially an advisor to the Founding Director and an active teacher who developed the Institute’s first curriculum, Attard became a member of IMLI’s Board of Trustees in 1989. He was appointed Director of the Institute in 1992.

During his tenure at the institute, Professor Attard oversaw the training of over 1,000 maritime professionals from over 150 states – many of whom have represented their countries as delegates to various IMO bodies. This has contributed to capacity building in many regions and supported IMO’s goals of promoting safe, secure, environmentally friendly, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation.

The work of the Institute, led by Professor Attard, has been recognized by various international bodies, including the IMO Assembly, the IMO Technical Cooperation Committee and the United Nations General Assembly.

Professor Attard was the first Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and has been praised for leading the United Nations Malta Initiative of 1988 – which led to the recognition of the climate change as a common concern of humanity. This work culminated in the adoption of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, by the Rio Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development, and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol.

Professor Attard is currently President of the Marine Environmental Disputes Chamber (since October 2020) and Judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea since 2011, having served as Vice-President of the Tribunal (2017-2020).

Professor Attard is also President of the Chamber for Marine Environmental Disputes and Judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.


Born in Sliema, Malta, Professor Attard obtained a Notary Public degree and a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from the University of Malta. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) from Oxford University. He is a solicitor in Malta and Barrister-at-Law, Middle Temple, London. The legal expert has been an active contributor to the work of the IMO since the late 1980s, when he represented Malta as a member and consultant to the Maltese delegation to the IMO Assembly, and a member of the Maltese delegation to the IMO Diplomatic Conference which adopted the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation.