C.P. Srivastava was born on 8 July 1920 and was educated in Lucknow, India (BA, MA, LLB). He started his career as a civil servant in India, entering the Indian Administrative Service, becoming a Joint Secretary to the Indian Prime Minister’s office from 1964–1966, during the premiership of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
C.P. Srivastava became the first chief executive of the Shipping Corporation of India and in 1974 was elected to serve as the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency based in London, serving successive four-year terms as Secretary-General from 1974 to 1989. During this time he played a pioneering role in the establishment of the International Maritime Academy in Italy, and the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta. He was also the first Chancellor of the Sweden-based World Maritime University which was founded in 1983 to address a pressing need for maritime professionals in the developing world.