An office block on the embankment near Lambeth Palace is notable for the large ship that appears to be emerging from the front.

The building is the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation, the United Nations agency responsible for regulating shipping around the world, and the ship protruding from the front is a memorial to those who have died at sea.

The office building itself is 40 years old, having been formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 May 1983, and had a uniform frontage, but in 2001, the ship arrived, which also created a focal point for the building. It represents the bow of a cargo ship with a lone seafarer standing up on the front of the deck, and owes its origins to a trust fund set up to improve the training of seafarers.

Set up in 1998 by IMO Secretary-General William A. O’Neil on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the IMO, the trust fund also financed the creation of a sculpture that would be a lasting memorial to seafarers throughout the world.

The ten tonne and seven metre high bronze sculpture was designed by the British sculptor Michael Sandle from as short list of three, and was unveiled by the IMO Secretary-General on 27th September 2001 – which was World Maritime Day.

Off to one side is a bronze plaque announcing what the memorial is for, and appropriately for an international organisation, it’s repeated in seven languages.

Although the exterior view is clearly of a ship, it also has detailing around the rear, which is open to walk around, and there are some monumental looking bolts at the top of the bow, and bronze “steelwork” behind, showing some of the tools of older sailing vessels.

A curiosity is that the building frontage has 7 main spans, and the ship could be in the centre, with three spans on either side, but for some reason, they put it slightly off-centre.

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  1. Chris Rogers says:

    “A curiosity is that the building frontage has 7 main spans, and the ship could be in the centre, with three spans on either side, but for some reason, they put it slightly off-centre.” The term you need there is ‘bays’ rather than spans. Hard to tell from Google Street View but the building seems to be assymetric anyway with a set back first floor that starts/ends at that bay so I guess that is why.

  2. Reaper says:

    We wem to look a this the other day but they had tapped/fenced off access to it. We just had to crane our necks and lean heavily aginst the barriers. Pity

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