- Local maritime entities have lost 40% to a 100% total market share wipeout
- An industry that provides employment to 11,500 workers is at risk
The Malta Maritime Forum notes with deep regret and concern that its prudent approach and sense of responsibility, particularly at this hour, were not appreciated, let alone reciprocated by government.
Other maritime nations have taken a different stand with their governments not only repeatedly applauding the maritime industry for its frontline and essential service provider role but actually compensating them financially to at least assist in burden-sharing. The maritime entities represented by the Forum which include such essential services as stevedoring, transshipment, pilotage, towage, ship repair and port services in general, have not asked from the government the level of USD one billion that the South Korean government is providing to aid shipping, but a fair burden-sharing agreement so that, as responsible employers, these entities are not forced to carry the full burden on their own. In its meeting with the Prime Minister on the 7th of April, the Forum explained that the best measure of social justice in the circumstances would be a burden-sharing formula which, in proportionate levels, government, employers, and employees carry a part of the burden. This proposal would have seen the employers carrying 60%, government 30%, and the employee 10% with guaranteed employment continuations for all employees. It is regretful and most insensitive that after three weeks since our meeting, we have not had the decency of an acknowledgment, let alone a confirmation.
We highlighted to the government that our industry has been carrying the whole burden since January when Chinese ports were closed down and ships had to cancel whole voyages for lack of cargo. It is a known fact that from January to the end of April there were four hundred blank voyages worldwide, with Malta receiving its share of this disastrous situation. The end result is the alarming state in which the local maritime industry finds itself in today with entities having lost from a minimum of 40% to a 100% total market share wipeout. And this is not the end of it. We know, but unfortunately, we have no understanding from the government for this situation, that we are in this for the long haul. The Ocean Minister (Transport Minister) of South Korea had this to say yesterday to justify why the S. Korean government is giving over USD 1 billion in aid to shipping: “The shipping firms are expected to suffer more serious damage after the second quarter of 2020, considering the time-lapse between the global economic turmoil and the decline in their performances.”
This is the understanding that the local maritime industry wishes to have but how can one reach a level of understanding if there is not even a response to the plea that the Forum has made to the government.
The maritime industry went beyond the claim for government’s burden-sharing. It has in fact proposed a number of proactive measures which would have addressed both the current situation as well as “post-Covid maritime Malta”. Other countries have already taken the lead in addressing how maritime services can be provided without prejudicing in any way the health considerations of the country. International organisations, such as the International Maritime Organisation and the European Union itself, have issued advice to governments to stand by their shipping industries and to allow maritime activities to be delivered with the necessary safeguards. Malta decided otherwise and our offer for the initiative, consultation, and pro-action has met the same fate.
The UK Minister for Transport, the Hon. Ms Kelly Tolhurst was quoted in the shipping paper Lloyds List of the 23rd April: “So I want to pay tribute to all those in maritime who have gone out to work during this time of national crisis, from every employee to every seafarer. There will be more difficult months ahead. But when we recover from this crisis, the whole nation will owe you a debt of gratitude for your outstanding service.” The difference in style and approach need no further comment.
The Forum is determined in its mission to make the government assume its responsibility to participate in burden-sharing. The maritime industry is fighting a battle of survival to continue guaranteeing the livelihood of the 11,500 citizens who are engaged in this industry and who know that were it not for the resilience and sacrifice of their employers they would be registering for employment benefits. This is the reality of the situation in the Maltese maritime industry. The Government’s policy of ignoring the maritime industry will have deep and long-lasting effects. The people employed in this industry are owed support from the public coffers to which they have contributed and it is not fair that employees are discriminated against.