March 2022

Credit where credit is due − Joseph Zammit McKeon

March 28th, 2022|

We should thank the men and women who salvaged the Chem P tanker.

This is one proud moment for the Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) to take a step forward and salute all those involved in the salvage operation on the chemical tanker Chem P, particularly Tug Malta and its crew members who, through their determined and brave actions, last weekend, managed to avert disaster for the vessel, its crew and, potentially, Malta’s eastern coastline. In fact, the salvage operation is ongoing.

The MMF is on a constant mission to bring the maritime industry to the fore in an unfortunate scenario where it is taken for granted all too often by all of those who overlook the dangers, personal sacrifices and health risks of sea-faring personnel, not to mention logistic hurdles, regulatory challenges, financial risk and climate-change targets for shipowners and the rest of the corporate players in the industry.

So this is a time when we should all take a moment to remember that there are investors and personnel staff out there who are prepared to go out of their way, putting their lives on the line to respond to the type of emergency that afflicted the 209-metre chemical tanker that lost control in the gale force easterly wind and found itself drifting towards perilous proximity of the Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq coastline over the weekend.

This situation, of course, posed imminent danger to the lives of 20 crew members on board the Chem P, the integrity of the ship itself as well as the potential pollution hazard arising from the chemical residue in the empty hold of the tanker and 300-odd tonnes reserve of gas oil fuel reportedly on board.

Due merit is also due to Harbour Master, Capt. David Bugeja, for his able coordination of the operation from Transport Malta HQ. In the words of Bugeja himself, when speaking to Times of Malta, two tugboats were soon on the scene, fighting frantically to get the vessel tied to their lines and keep it from veering closer to the rocks.

“If no action had been taken, we could have, unfortunately, seen the possibility of the vessel becoming grounded and even perhaps the loss of life, the 20 souls on that ship,” he said.

The MMF was also inspired by another public acknowledgement of Tug Malta and its brave crew members for their ordeal with the unforgiving sea weather conditions to save the Chem P.

Neil Agius, who is no stranger to extreme sea challenges himself, was reported on Lovin Malta to praise the 13 Tug Malta men involved in the delicate operation, pushing their limits to keep Malta safe from a potential tragedy at sea.

“While most of us watched from the comfort of our own homes, these men risked their safety and I have no doubt pushed passed their limits,” he said. “In my eyes, they are heroes and deserve every bit of praise.”

Such public acclamation is most encouraging to the MMF as the prime representative of the maritime industry. It is a clear reflection of the faith placed by the authorities and the public at large who are safe in the knowledge, as they should be, that, in the moment of truth, the country is armed with a young fleet of state-of-the-art vessels and a group of professional crew members that combine to face any challenge that a rescue or environmental operation may put them through.

The MMF, therefore, proudly applauds its member Tug Malta, its leadership and its brave and professional staff for showing the country they are on top of things when put to the call.

The MMF salutes Tug Malta which, through its parent company, Rimorchiatori Riuniti Group, has consistently invested wisely in its assets routinely engaged in salvage services and harbour and offshore towing services on a daily basis, as well as in its exceptional human resources and the continuous programme of training. Such training is essential to ensure that, when applying their innate bravery, the crew is always able to address any situation which may potentially be placed upon them and the country.

The MMF has nothing but thanks and praise to bestow on the brave and professional team at Tug Malta and augurs that the instances in which their selfless courage and professional talents are put to the test are few and far between.

Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon is the Chairman of the Malta Maritime Forum.

This article appeared in the Times of Malta on 26 March 2022

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Sustainable transport and cleaner solutions

March 7th, 2022|

Pollution and climate change could be reduced through waterborne transport.

In February, I represented the Malta Maritime Forum in a national conference, organised by Transport Malta, on ‘Sustainable Transport and Cleaner Solutions’. The event was held online on February 24 and tackled various topical issues with respect to the maritime industry and how it can support a shift to more sustainable transport.

During my intervention, I maintained that one way to reduce pollution and climate change was to consolidate traffic on waterborne transport because it is the most energy-efficient and also helps to cut congestion in roads, as shipping is already the lowest emitting mode of transportation per ton-mile.

In this regard, the Malta Maritime Forum (MMF), through its active participation in the European Network of Maritime Clusters (ENMC), is promoting a shift in traffic from road to waterborne which will contribute to achieving the objectives of the European Union’s Green Deal Package.

The MMF is aware that larger vessels are being built to reap even more advanced economies of scale and efficiency gains. Technological advances, horizontal alliances and agreements are being formed to better achieve them.

However, the diversity and vastness of the maritime industry creates serious challenges posed by the need for extensive coordination between all the various components in the industry and all the different countries they take place in. Key stakeholders, besides shipowners, are charterers, shipbuilders, port operators, port services, navigation control, fuel and bunker suppliers, and several others.

So, the handling of bigger ships, for example, necessitates new commensurate investment in port infrastructure, which, in turn, calls for a revised regulatory framework that guarantees legal certainty for investors, transparency of public funding to ensure fair competition and efficient use, and non-discriminatory access to services. More concentrated volumes of cargo, as well as the need to remain competitive vis-à-vis other modes of transport, also necessitate a speedier execution of formalities and better coordination of logistics operations.

On a national level, Infrastructure Malta is investing €50 million in a shore-to-ship power project that will allow cruise liners, and eventually Ro-Ro vessels, to switch off their on-board power-generation plants and plug in to shore-side electricity points to power their on-board services. This development, which forms part of ‘The Grand Harbour Clean Air Project’, is complemented by investments with similar objectives taken at the micro level by the private sector.

Shipowners, in fact, have, since a number of years, installed exhaust gas cleaning systems (commonly referred to as scrubbers) on their vessels. This equipment is designed to capture exhaust gas from the main engine funnels before reaching the air and transform the gases into liquids which are treated before they are disposed of.

Alternative, carbon-neutral fuels will be key contributors to shipping’s future energy transition and a major step forward towards carbon-free shipping

Further examples of initiatives taken at company level continue to be taken to reduce emissions from the maritime industry. These include Malta Freeport Terminal’s investment of €20 million in six new German technology megamax quay cranes which, besides the necessary stacking capability, are more energy-efficient and less noise polluting. Besides, the Freeport also invested in separate technologies that optimise job distribution to terminal tractors and the efficiency of rubber tyre gantry jobs which reduce idling, undesired truck turnarounds and container rehandling. Other examples given were the latest additions to the fleets of the Pilot Cooperative and of Tug Malta which generate less pollution in the air as well as in the water.

These initiatives taken jointly by the private and public sectors are also conducive towards rendering sea transport more attractive to the local user. Consumers and commuters are becoming ever more environmentally conscious and appreciate (a) that maritime transport is already one of the most energy-efficient due to the critical mass it enjoys; (b) the decarbonisation initiatives being taken to reduce the maritime industry’s carbon footprint; (c) the convenience and comfort of service; and (d) the advantage over getting stuck in congested roads. The positive response of commuters, for instance, since the introduction of fast ferries between Malta and Gozo and between Valletta and the Three Cities and Sliema is clear testament to this.

Further initiatives that could be taken in this regard would be for Gozo Channel to replace its fourth vessel currently on charter with an eco vessel and that this vessel could operate a ro-ro service between the Valletta and Mġarr harbours carrying heavy trucks and other ro-ro cargo, thus eliminating such truck pollution and congestion from Maltese roads from south to north and vice versa.

The MMF continues to monitor these interesting and encouraging developments, as well as those occurring on the research of alternative fuels, including those based on hydrogen and ammonia.  These developments are regarded as game-changing breakthroughs in the decarbonisation efforts of the maritime industry.

It is not the business of the maritime industry, of course, to conduct such research as it relies on scientists for these breakthroughs.

The industry, however, stands ready to test new propulsion methods capable of replacing fuel oil in ships, tugboats, ferries, pilot boats and any other category of vessel once these are made available.

Indeed, alternative, carbon-neutral fuels will be key contributors to shipping’s future energy transition and a major step forward towards carbon-free shipping.

Michael Callus is a board member of the Malta Maritime Forum.

This article appeared in the Times of Malta on 7 March 2022

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November 2021

The Role of Technology in Enhancing the Progress towards Carbon-Neutrality in the Maritime Industry

November 28th, 2021|

The maritime industry is already the most energy efficient mode of transport of goods and people.  This efficiency results from the critical mass it enjoys – transporting 23,000 containers at one go, on a single ship.  Shipping gives the lowest emission cost per ton mile, so therefore, the carbon footprint of transporting, say, a shoe-box is much smaller if transported by sea as compared to road or other forms of transport.  For this reason, shipping already transports over 80% of world trade in tonnage terms, but if a larger proportion of traffic continues to be shifted onto waterborne transport, that, by itself, will make this mode of transport even more efficient.

Whilst this gives scope for expansion in the maritime industry, the growth which the industry wants is of the green and sustainable type, not merely because it is being expected to do so by International regulatory frameworks and ESG considerations but because the industry itself is a victim of grave, climate change consequences.  Rising sea and air temperatures, shifting sea levels and the frequency of extreme marine events like tropical storms and cyclones are most devastating to the operations of the Industry.

Clearly, there can be little doubt that the Industry’s chances of achieving its carbon-neutral ambitions without the adoption of technology would be very slim, so the road ahead is, indeed, a “twin transition”.

The Challenges

The critical mass and sheer magnitude associated with the industry serves as a double-edged sword when it comes to progress in achieving environmental targets.  Ships, on average, take a minimum of three years to build and have an average life-span of around 25 years.  The cost of investment (around €130m) for a new container ship is not comparable to the capital outlay of a few thousand euro for any road-going vehicle.

Moreover, the industry is vast and diverse and extensive coordination is required between all the various components in the industry and all the different countries they take place in.  Key stakeholders besides Ship-owners here are charterers, ship-builders, port operators, port services, navigation control, fuel and bunker suppliers and several others.  Indeed, advancement in research into new alternative fuels needs to be co-ordinated with stakeholders in the fuel distribution network, builders of propulsion systems, training institutions, law makers, insurers, financiers and others.

Needless to conclude, therefore, that the magnitude of the decisions is higher in the maritime industry compared to other modes of transport and the risks are obviously higher

Current Encouraging Developments

These challenges have been mentioned in the interest of context as opposed to justifying any calls for a status quo.  In fact, ongoing research has been taking place and continues to take place in order to find new Engineering and Digital Solutions to render the Maritime Industry more digital, autonomous, better integrated and, above all, less polluting.  The industry is already implementing numerous breakthrough technological and operational measures, such as slow steaming, weather routing, contra-rotating propellers and propulsion efficiency devices, can deliver breakthrough advancements towards lower emissions and fuel consumption.  These developments evidence the fact that the maritime industry is serious in implementing its transition towards a digital and carbon-neutral future.

To start with, it is interesting to note that 2021 saw an annual record for orders placed on new ships in just the first 8 months of the year.  Whilst this development augurs well in terms of the pace of fleet modernisation, it must also be stated that the effect of orders placed in 2021 will not be felt before the three-year lag it takes to commission a new ship.  Further gains in the pace of fleet modernisation remain constrained by the fact that there are fewer shipyards around the globe today (120) than in 2008 when the previous record was set (around 300).

In 2017, in fact, CMA CGM, the leading worldwide shipping group, signed a contract with a Chinese shipbuilder to produce 9 LNG-powered ships for a combined cost estimated at USD 1.2 billion.  One of these ships– the largest LNG-powered vessel ever built (the Jacques Saade with a capacity of 23,000 TEUs and measuring 400m in length) commenced commercial operations in September 2020 and immediately started operating on the Malta route.

This development had positive knock-on effects on terminal operations in Malta.  In order to accommodate the Jacques Saade, in fact, the Malta Freeport invested €20m in six new German technology megamax quay cranes which besides the necessary stacking capability are more energy efficient and less noise polluting.  Besides, the Freeport recently invested in separate technologies that optimise job distribution to Terminal Tractors and the efficiency of Rubber Tyre Gantry jobs which reduce idling, undesired truck turnarounds and container re-handling.

Moreover, through a recently announced development referred to as “The Grand Harbour Clean Air Project” at a cost of €50m, Infrastructure Malta is investing in a Shore to Ship Power project that will allow cruise liners and eventually Ro-Ro vessels to switch off their on-board power generation plants and plug in to shore-side electricity points to power their on-board services.  This project complements Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (commonly referred to as Scrubbers) which is equipment installed on vessels to entrap plumes from the main engine funnels before reaching the air.  The scrubbers turn the gases into liquids which are treated before they are disposed of.

Further New Green Shipping Technologies

The industry is now adopting Digital Performance Optimization Platforms incorporating several participating vessels. All such ships are installed with pieces of hardware that read data referring to vessel positioning, speed, RPM which is then transmitted to a central node that aggregates information gathered from all ships.  The node then uses AI and complex algorithms involving external data related to forecast weather conditions, tides, currents and traffic to suggest alternative routes to the different ships.  The platform helps to reduce operational costs on fuel and maximises fuel-efficiency and emission control.  The system also optimises planning at ports giving almost perfect Estimated Times of Arrival.

Research has also resulted in the development of Electric Azipod Propulsion systems that do away with a fixed rudder system on vessels and use a 360 rotating propellor to steer and thrust simultaneously.  This type of propulsion is integrated with innovative bridge controls, sensors, digital reporting and automation and propulsion technology.  As a result, the vessel achieves around 20% less fuel consumption and emission control

Although electric power has its limitations for Maritime applications in terms of power and-range capabilities, new technologies in Green Dynamic Positioning Systems can be installed on certain categories of vessels to optimise fuel consumption of generators and thrusters. As a result, a vessel may sail more efficiently and save fuel by switching completely to battery-power.  The Dynamic Positioning System also enables the vessel to operate more silently and to remain in position without moving allowing certain delicate operations to take place even in offshore rough conditions.

Use of Alternative Fuels

There is no denying that the game changer in reducing the Industry’s environmental impact even further would be via a stronger shift towards renewable and alternative fuels.  Scientists around the world are, in fact, testing new propulsion methods capable of replacing fuel oil in ships.  However, according to a study by researchers at The University of Manchester, there is no widely available alternative fuel that can be used for powering ships.  Some of the alternative fuel options analysed have the potential, but only if key barriers can be overcome.

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) is increasingly being replaced with Low Sulphur Diesel which is widely available but this is far more expensive compared to HFO and is still a fossil fuel.  As already mentioned, Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) is gradually making inroads into the industry and in the process.  Although LNG cannot be considered an alternative fuel (because it is not renewable), it reduces Green House Gases (GHGs) by 20% when used to power ships and produces no particulate matter.  For this reason, LNG provides a viable solution for the long term.  LNG’s GHG performance represents a major step forward when compared to conventional fuels.  On the other hand, its adoption is hampered by limitations in distribution channels.  Whilst it is readily available in bulk at circa 150 locations worldwide and there are huge bulk LNG infrastructures including regasification terminals and liquefication plants globally, LNG-powered ships are still unable to refuel in and around Malta.

Further afield, the Industry is experimenting with Ammonia which is made up of Nitrogen and Hydrogen, so after burning it produces Zero Emissions.  Besides, Ammonia is safer and easier to store than LNG and LPG and is non-cryogenic, however, significant limitations with respect to sourcing and on-board storage still remain.  Nevertheless, Ammonia continues to be studied seriously whilst being piloted project on vessels.  One such pilot conversion powers a vessel with a 70% ammonia blend as part of an ultimate objective to achieve complete operation with ammonia and with a minimum ignition fuel requirement.

Lastly, one must also consider the advances in Hydrogen as the most basic renewable fuel generated by electrolysis.  Hydrogen is carbon-free and generates the lowest emissions from combustion.  It is safe in handling, transport and storage processes, however hydrogen needs to be compressed to 700bar or liquefied to -253oC whilst handling.  Wider usage of hydrogen as a fuel to power ships is, therefore, hindered by critical supply and distribution issues.

That said, heading towards 2050 and the related carbon-free objectives, Hydrogen and Ammonia are considered as the climate-neutral ship propulsion system of the future especially because retro-fitting conversions projects on existing ships are possible, even in Maltese yards.  These alternative fuels are perceived as key contributors to shipping’s future energy transition for implementing new environmental friendly technology on both existing vessels and even on new builds.

In conclusion, it is more than obvious that much more R&D and investment will be necessary in the coming years to allow the maritime industry to address and respond effectively to the current and future climate and environmental challenges, whilst taking into account a safe implementation of technologies and concepts.  It is equally clear that in proceeding in its journey towards the green and technology transitions, the Maritime Industry requires the right dose of encouragement from the authorities, in terms of targeted finance and resource support.  The authorities, particularly the European Union, must also ensure that implementation timelines are aligned with competitiveness considerations.  If these safeguards are firmly in place, the Industry is optimistic and enthusiastic about adapting to the new environmental realities through the adoption of innovative, climate-proof technologies that will allow it to fulfil its carbon-neutral ambitions.

by Kevin J Borg, CEO Malta Maritime Forum

Appeared on the Times of Malta, 28 November 2021

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August 2021

Maritime-focused electoral manifesto presented to Malta’s political leaders

August 2nd, 2021|

In this article CEO Kevin J Borg elaborates on a maritime centred electoral manifesto that was presented to the leaders of the major political parties in July in advance of the 2022 General Election.  True to its mission to serve as a maritime cluster and a common platform for the maritime industry for the purposes of influencing national maritime policy and facilitating communication between industry players and the country’s policymakers, the document aims to give due importance to the maritime industry, in particular those who work and invest in it. The document includes 10 concrete recommendations, amongst them the proposals for the new incoming administration to appoint a minister solely responsible for maritime affairs and the blue economy, the re-establishment of a national entity solely responsible for the maritime industry, the establishment of a dedicated maritime court and the formulation of a national maritime transport policy. The full article can be accessed here. It first appeared in the Times of Malta.

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April 2021

The Effect of Covid-19 on the Maltese Shipping Industry

April 1st, 2021|

In this article,  MMF member Dr Adrian Attard of Fenech & Fenech explains the restrictive measures implemented by the authorities at the early stages of the pandemic and the effects on the local shipping industry. This article appeared in the ILO Shipping & Transport news and can be accessed here.

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March 2021

Accolades to the Malta Flag of Ship Registration

March 22nd, 2021|

In this article, Board Member Godwin Xerri sheds light on Malta’s admirable performance in the Shipping Industry State Performance Table 2020/2021 published by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The ICS is the global trade association for ship owners and ship operators representing over 80% of the world merchant fleet with 100,000 vessels. The comparative analysis of all the flags of ship registration is published annually to give ship owners an independent and professional assessment of how the flags have discharged their duties to the international shipping industry and how they have operated to safeguard life at sea and the environment. Mr Xerri explains how the fact that the Malta Flag passes all the tests gives all Maltese reason to be proud of and which factors have led to the success story of this national asset. The full article with the details can be accessed here.

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MMF playing pivotal role in Maritime Industry’s success

March 1st, 2021|

This article was contributed by Kevin J Borg, a few weeks into taking over the MMF CEO position.  in this piece, he draws attention to the importance of the maritime sector for the Maltese industry which continued to serve the country even though the most challenging times of the pandemic.  Mr Borg argues that too often maritime services are generally taken for granted and people tend to overlook the true strategic importance of the maritime operators that are represented by the MMF.  As a direct representative of the main players in the national maritime transport industry, the Forum pledges for a consolidated common approach of all the stakeholders to face future challenges and offers itself as a point of reference to contribute its vision and expertise to the development of a national maritime policy and invites the policymakers to more active consulting with the Forum. The article first appeared in the Times of Malta and can be accessed on the following link.

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November 2020

The maritime sector’s potential towards economic growth

November 16th, 2020|

In this article, Board Member Godwin Xerri outlines the main conclusions of a study commissioned by the Malta Maritime Forum about the economic contribution of the maritime industry to the country in terms of GDP, employment and productivity. With the professional economic analysis of empirical facts, the study is the first of its kind and aims to serve both policymakers and the public to appreciate the importance of the maritime sector. While the study projects a positive economic growth for the sector gaps are highlighted that should warrant the full attention of the policymakers. To this extent, the study does not limit itself to statistical analysis but puts forward recommendations by way of a proposal for a national framework for the maritime sector in Malta. This study was performed by Dr Gordon Cordina of E-Cubed Consultancy. The article first appeared in the Times of Malta and is accessible on the following link.

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October 2020

Voice of Malta’s Flagbearers

October 20th, 2020|

MMV Vice-Chairman, Lino Vassallo, provides an insight into the history and the raison d’être of the Malta International Shipowners Association (MISA), formerly the Malta International Shipping Council, which was established in 2004 as a voluntary NGO when the growth of the Maltese Ship Register to one of the largest of the world called for a national association international in nature.  MISA’s main aim is to foster and protect its members’ interests while promoting the interests of Malta’s international industry and furthering the reputation of the Malta flag with the vision of sustainable green shipping industry.  The Association which is affiliated with the Forum currently focuses on sustainability issues as well as on the plight of seafarers and ship operations due to delayed crew changes. The article which first appeared in the Times of Malta is accessible on the following link.

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February 2019

A Holistic plan for Maritime Malta

February 6th, 2019|

Maritime Malta is one of the country’s prime assets. What we lack by way of natural resources is amply compensated for by our surrounding seas.

The sea is our source of living, our ‘hinterland’, our means of communication with the outside world. The sea does not isolate us – rather it is our bridge to the rest of the world.

Quoting from a recent feature penned by Professor Oliver Friggieri in The Sunday Times of Malta, ‘Towards a definition of an ultra-minor nation’: “A diminutive island which is equally a city and a nation, a geographical dot and a formidable fortress of history, standing midway between two continents, belonging to the south of Europe and so close to North Africa, looking very far ahead from herself”.

This, in my opinion, is the definition of maritime Malta because it was from the sea that our forefathers arrived on this land and back to the sea our capabilities reach out to earn a living, create livelihoods, devise entrepreneurship and create wealth.

Our maritime industry is made up of a composite of a multitude – in Maltese terms – of small and medium-sized commercial entities each one competing for its share of the maritime resources to deliver a service, create wealth and by doing so generate an economic activity. There is no doubt that maritime Malta is a main contributor to our GDP, notwithstanding its low profile and at times, prejudiced negative PR.

Malta has to be proud of its maritime achievements because considering the limited geographical size and population, it has made incredible successes which much bigger nations try to emulate. The capability to turn an arid island into a major international maritime hub is a feather in our cap – thanks to the foresight of our predecessors. The hubbing concept is manifest in today’s trans-shipment industry (containers, conventional cargo, petroleum products, cruise passengers, offshore oil industry – some of the leading examples). Hubbing attracts vessels to call at Malta but hubbing on itself would not survive without infrastructure and support services.

Our infrastructure – harbours, quays, terminals, berths, water depth – plays an essential role to attract shipping lines to call at Malta because this infrastructure impinges directly on the smooth operation for a vessel to enter port, berth and turnaround. Considering the capital intensiveness of this industry, a vessel’s time in port is literally measured by the minute and the success of a hub relies heavily, if not exclusively, on the efficient turnaround of ships.

Shipping is dynamic – the only constant is change – and all the time experimenting with new systems and strategies. Unless maritime Malta is an intrinsic part of this movement it becomes anachronistic and stuck in its past.

This is where we feel that a holistic approach to planning is required. Given the dynamics of this industry, where ships are becoming bigger, we have to keep developing our maritime infrastructure, in an environmental-friendly manner, to remain relevant to the international maritime industry. If we look at the investment made by Malta Freeport Terminals over the years (over €250 million since October 2004) we have a template that can be emulated.

Without such investment Malta Freeport would not be able to handle the largest container vessels (20,000TEU capacity) that are plying the seas today.

Grand Harbour is a different story. It cries out for a vision and action. The investment made in Grand Harbour over the years has been pitiful and it is with grave concern to note that up to the last budget presented by government in October, there were no funds voted for infrastructural development in Grand Harbour. If I have missed the point, I stand to be corrected.

The holistic approach that is required entails an in-depth consultative process with all the stakeholders. This should lead to the identification of the strategic direction to be taken followed by an action plan that is monitored and kept on track. If we were able to do it on the development of the road infrastructure, there is no reason why we cannot do it on the ports infrastructure.

The reality, however, and unfortunately, is different. Take Deep Water Quay (DWQ) as an example – we, the stakeholders have lost track when the works started and when they are supposed to be completed. What we do know is that in the meantime the opportunities to berth ships on DWQ are passing us by, and that the works undertaken to date have failed to address the endemic problem of not providing sufficient quay strength to withstand pressure from quay cranes.

We do understand that at present there is yet another study being undertaken regarding the regeneration of Grand Harbour. We wish to appeal to the respective authorities to consult with the stakeholders to avoid having a study which makes interesting reading but lacks in practicality.

The plan for maritime Malta must necessarily address environmental considerations, safety requirements, the exigencies of the vessels and related activities, the demands being made and the potential that can be obtained from the blue economy and the adaptation of IT to assist in better processing of information. Certain work practices which might have been relevant five decades ago – such as working time during summer – are gate stoppers in today’s environment and yet they are not being addressed.

Looking towards the future, maritime Malta needs vision, planning, resolve and action. The endemic fault in our planning model for maritime Malta has been and still is the lack of a holistic approach. There are so many competing interests in this industry that it takes real effort for the policymaker to override the pressures of the various interests and develop a holistic plan which ensures Malta’s leading role as a maritime hub. The removal and perpetuation of maritime Malta from a standalone, focused, ministerial portfolio and the amalgamation of same within Transport Malta is a fundamental mistake which epitomises the policymakers’ lack of understanding and appreciation of the contribution of this industry.

Fortunately I cannot be accused of political bias when making such a statement because this decision was introduced by one administration and retained by another political administration – both are at fault and misguided.

The focus required to plan strategically for maritime Malta entails constant engagement, active awareness of the developments in the international maritime industry, political courage to take decisions and an ongoing consultative process with the industry players.

The consultative process is one of the objectives for which the Malta Maritime Forum was set up.

One must not lose sight of the positive developments that maritime Malta has managed to achieve, but we cannot for a moment relax and assume the winning formula of the past is a guarantee of our future success. Ships of larger sizes need to be accommodated in our harbours, environmental considerations need sustainable solutions, work practices have to be brought in line with present and future exigencies, standards must rise and enforcement of rules and regulations brought to play to ensure that quality of service remains our hallmark. These are but some elements that we wish to see in the planning for maritime Malta of tomorrow.


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January 2018

Malta’s Maritime Vocation

January 18th, 2018|

Malta – the leading Global Maritime Centre. An island at the crossroads of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Malta – strategically located at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea just six nautical miles off the vital Gibraltar and Suez Canal routes.

Throughout its chequered history dating back millennia, Malta has always been an important hub for both merchant as well as naval shipping.

Its natural harbours were a safe and very sought-after haven, often eyed by military and merchant superpowers as they sought the Mediterranean as a base for their far-reaching influences.

Today, Malta is still honouring its vocation as a maritime hub, providing a wide variety of services, logistics and facilities to the maritime industry and beyond.

Homeport ‘Valletta’ ; The largest in Europe and the sixth largest in the world in terms of tonnage, the Malta flag has developed a solid reputation boasting a very strong legal and regulatory platform.

Malta is also a hub for yacht registration under the Maltese flag. This registration is open to Maltese, as well as EU and non-EU nationals. Yachts and super yachts can avail themselves of a range of services including eight yacht marinas, support services, berthing facilities as well as a superyacht repair facility.

Malta is also renowned for its ship repair industry that currently serves two hundred commercial vessels per year. The facilities, can accommodate ships up to VLCC size and offer a full range of services, including maintenance, damage repairs and conversion work.

Through the Malta Freeport Terminals, Malta also offers state of the art transhipment facilities fully geared to handle two 18,000 TEU vessels simultaneously. One of the major advantages of the Malta Freeport Terminals is the global links by regular liner services with 130 ports worldwide, 62 of which are in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Malta’s Grand Harbour is one of the most scenic in the world, and is the home of a vibrant cruise liner industry. Valletta Cruise Port currently handles over 300 cruise liners and registers 600,000 passengers each year. The Cruise Port is well adapted both for homeport as well as turnaround services with fast and efficient airport to seaport transfers. Valletta Cruise Port was named Best Terminal Operator 2015 by Cruise Insight.

Malta has established itself through its shortsea initiatives, through the Malta Shortsea Promotion Centre. This Centre promotes shortsea shipping initiatives in Malta through roro services and feedering networks, essential to the Maltese economy.

Malta also serves as a hub for the Oil and Gas industry through equipment, materials, private quay facilities and terminals, storage facilities as well as personnel logistic facilities. Malta is also an active offshore hub, servicing the needs of operators requiring the maintenance and upgrading of oil rigs.

Malta’s bunkering facilities, turning over 1.5 million tons of bunker oils per year, offer both onshore storage as well as blending facilities.

Malta has what it takes to be a premium hub for maritime activities. Through its extensive network of support services, clients can rest assured of the best during their port stay in Malta. Ship chandlery, Customs electronic systems, outside harbour related services as well as efficient crew changes make Malta such an attractive proposition.

Moreover, the industry is supported by reputable shipping services with regards to legal, insurance, as well as back office services.

Malta has an efficient Maritime jurisdiction as well as Maritime Arbitration services.

As a maritime hub of activity, Malta is also looking to the Blue economy. The island is attracting investment in blue energy, aqua culture, tourism, blue bio-technology as well as underwater archeology.

The Malta Maritime Forum brings together all the stakeholders in the Maltese Maritime Industry. Its objective is to create the necessary synergies and expand Malta’s network as an important international maritime hub.
Malta’s maritime roots are the foundation of its success today. Through the Malta Maritime Forum the industry is striving to set higher standards as well as create further opportunities through maintaining and developing local and international networks. Welcome to Maritime Malta!

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