Established in October of 2015 specifically to promote the interests of the maritime community, the Malta Maritime Forum, together with all stakeholders from Malta’s maritime industry, seeks to create synergies to expand Malta’s network as an important international maritime hub.

“Over the past weeks, I have been engaging mostly with our regulators and policy makers and relaying the opinions, suggestions and concerns of our members,” explains Godwin Xerri.

“In fact, one of the positive outcomes is that currently, there exists political consensus in the country on all issues related to the maritime industry. Maintaining this political consensus will be crucial if we want to pursue ongoing policy matters to obtain the necessary closures that will ultimately benefit all our members,” he added.

According to Xerri, positive progress is already being registered on the setting up of a dedicated Maritime Court, the enactment of the draft Ship Agency Regulations and the restructuring of Transport Malta.

“What we are after is the establishment of a national entity with a focus on the maritime industry.”

Despite the acknowledgement that the maritime industry plays a strategic role in the country’s economy, Xerri noted how Malta still lacks a

national policy specific to the maritime industry and explained that the Malta Maritime Forum is pushing very strongly for the drafting and implementation of a new National Maritime Strategy.

“What we are doing is beyond the simple drafting of a document. We have enough of those collecting dust. We are after proper consultation with all stakeholders in our industry to understand their challenges and aspirations and together, to formulate an action plan with specific objectives and target dates. We need a strategic plan, in line with international best practice and similar to that in advanced countries that typically follow 20-year strategies that allow for regular updates.

“If we had to look at fellow EU member states such as neighbouring Italy and Cyprus, we would find how these countries even have a cabinet minister dedicated to maritime policy. Aspiring to having a maritime strategy which would be the result of a public-private endeavour, we would be reinventing the wheel.”

Xerri noted his encouragement by the positive response received so far from policy makers. “There seems to be a will.”

“In fact, we are also engaging with the International Maritime Organisation by seeking technical support that would be available for such a project. From our end, as Malta Maritime Forum, we are ready to contribute actively towards this goal.”

Xerri explained how, “A suggestion has been put forward to the authorities on the setting up of a mechanism for structured consultation on the lines of a Maritime Advisory Committee.

“This committee would be tasked with handling matters of urgent importance as well as be involved in the ongoing consultation on policies and strategies. We cannot expect a Minister to be always available and present whenever urgent matters inevitably arise. Such matters will therefore be handled by this appropriate forum.”

According to Xerri, Maritime Malta is facing a multitude of challenges, from issues of competitiveness to issues related to our Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) obligations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), hanging technologies and the adoption of new practices to replace the old ones.

“These challenges are bound to affect us. It is not a question of if but when and how hard they will hit us. There are game-changing developments on the horizon. We can either falsely hope they disappear, or else, face reality and turn these challenges into opportunities. We owe it to all those who preceded us and who worked so hard for this industry to become what it is.”

Xerri pointed out that ultimately, the Forum’s mission will always be to facilitate communication and interaction between the authorities and industry players to improve the sector.

“The Forum’s track record is based on engaged consultation with a positive and constructive mindset even in situations where we have been least pleased with the circumstances before us. The professional people forming part of the Forum remain its biggest resource, contributing objective research and opinions based on experience. So as the maritime industry braces itself to the oncoming challenges and evolving new realities, the Malta Maritime Forum must be allowed to play a major role in defining Malta’s new maritime strategy,” concluded Xerri.

Source: Times of Malta

Karin Grech
Author: Karin Grech