What made you study Law?
I don’t remember exactly now but I think I wanted to do something serious of my own and not a nine-to-five job. Now I sometimes have a sarcastic laugh at that because basically I actually achieved the second of these. Seriously though, I made the decision to study Law in 1989. At the time I was in the fourth class at Comprehensive School no: 3 in Gdynia. It was a time of unprecedented change in Poland – a time of change in an atmosphere of novelty and with many questions. In 1990, I started studies at the UG’s Faculty of Law and Administration. A choice based both on sense and on my willingness to meet interesting people and I know now after all those years that it was, above all, important for my own development. Sometimes it happens in life that fascinations lead to unforeseen scenarios.
Since childhood I have been fascinated by the sea in many different ways. In primary school I dreamt of becoming a sea-captain and travelling the world. Pretty early on, though, I realised that working on a ship involved a lot of difficult situations and I was simply just scared that I wouldn’t cope with this particular element. I started to get interested in geography, to a great extent thanks to a wonderful teacher in secondary school, which is still paying off. I also seriously considered studying Oceanography and researching the secrets hidden in the depths of the oceans. Relatively early on I discovered the sea as artistic inspiration. As a matter of fact, I like taking photos of the sea, at any time of the year, as well as everything that goes on in port – the activity, the visiting big commercial vessels and yachts and the people doing things on them.
In retrospect I can say that I saw my professional future as being connected in some way with the sea, but at the time I didn’t know in what shape or form. Additionally, I had the inner conviction that somehow the sea would find me. For pragmatic reasons, I chose the University of Gdańsk and Law Studies, which, as a land-based course, might seem unrelated to the sea. Here comes the surprise. I wrote my MA on maritime law at Poland’s only Department of Maritime Law, which I now head.
How would you characterise the subject matter of your academic career?
After defending my MA, I started four-year doctoral studies at the UG’s Faculty of Law and Administration. As a doctoral student I taught classes on Maritime Law and conducted academic research. In 2000 I defended a doctorate on the subject of the influence of the principle of sustainable development on the conservation of the environment and the natural resources in the Baltic Sea. I was taken on in the Department of Public International Law. For a few years I worked on my habilitation on maritime law, conducting research, assembling an academic portfolio and taking part in scientific and research projects and conferences. It was a time of intense work and an ordered, well-organised life. My theoretical basis and independence in academic thinking, without separating them from the practical experience I gained particularly in the preparation of my habilitation, have become my capital, invaluable in the work I do for the Polish maritime economy. This combination is of inestimable value. It allows me to keep a distance and to be flexible in management. I try to achieve a balance while using common sense.
Your knowledge and experience have been reflected in a ministerial nomination.
Over the past eighteen months, I have more than once been convinced that academic knowledge and experience lend themselves to work in the infrastructural and developmental department, when, as Undersecretary of State, I head the appraisal of the Department of Maritime Transport and Shipping Safety and subordinate bodies. In a certain sense this discovery was a positive shock. The value of constructive thinking, which an academic approach to a problem brings, allows you to construct a fuller picture, which, if used well, can help you to make rational decisions.
The notion of the world ocean as a wider community is associated more with oceanography, while “World Ocean Law” is the title of your habilitation. Isn’t this a rather unique approach to an issue of this kind?
My habilitation “World Ocean Law: Res usus publicum” was the result of many years of research which I carried out on the subject of maritime law. The book is devoted to the protection of the sea and the rational use of its resources, which requires the creation of an effective system for managing the ocean on a global, regional and local scale. It’s worth remembering that the marine environment, i.e. all the oceans and seas and the coastal areas, create an integrated whole and guarantee the possibility of sustainable development. The World Ocean is a unity, but the breakthrough in thinking about it takes place at the level of humanity and of its needs, and maybe most of all individually in every human being, when faced with a challenge such as maintaining biodiversity or a state of equilibrium and security. But for a lawyer the vital task is to develop such legal tools, including procedures, that, if recognised and correctly applied, would allow us to ensure their safety on the ecological, political and socio-economic level. In brief, if safety is the goal, that goal has to be reached – through norms and institutions in the system. And that, more or less, is what the book is about – the capacity to manage the World Ocean for the safety of humanity.
Do you have a hobby, something that takes up your free time?
I listen to music, mainly jazz and progressive rock, although from time to time I like to explore ambitious new trends and the classics. I love wandering off to wild Baltic beaches and photographing the blueness through the sea air. These are in no way transparent photographs. There’s a sea of depth and passion in them, just like in my individual approach to work.
Interview: Krzysztof Klinkosz
Photography: Piotr Pędziszewski