The Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) acknowledged the approach taken in the 2023 Budget whereby the Government has decided to cushion the economy from the significant hikes in the cost of fuel and energy at an international level. This is a positive development in terms of safeguarding the competitiveness of local operators in a fiercely competitive regional market given that fuel and energy are important elements in the cost-structures of maritime business operations over a number of sectors not least transport, logistics, terminal operations, ship repair and ship services.
The MMF took note of generic initiatives announced in the Budget Speech which are also applicable to the Maritime Industry such as that concerning a Digital Innovation Hub for the purposes of facilitating the digital transformation of Maltese businesses. This is encouraging in terms of the challenge of digitalisation and similar measures have been called for by the MMF in the past.
Clearly, the MMF also noted those maritime-specific initiatives which were mentioned in the Budget Speech such as the continued digitalisation project of the maritime registry and the ongoing upgrading of maritime infrastructure including dredging works in Maltese harbours. Of course, dredging works are crucial to ensure safe access to private concessions for the purposes of terminal operations and ship-repair in particular. Such works ensure uninterrupted commercial operations in such concessions in the face of continuous changes at the sea-bed level which mainly occur due to deposits caused by rain and storms. Similarly, the MMF welcomes the proposed extensions of Pinto and Lascaris wharves which were once again mentioned in the 2023 Budget Speech. As the MMF commented in the past, the planning and timing of these works and coordination with related private-sector stakeholders is crucial to ensure minimal disruption to operations and commitments with key international players in the industry.
The Forum of course noted and welcomed the declared ambition made in the Budget Speech for the country to continue to consolidate its leading position in terms of ship registrations however the MMF must reiterate its position that there is much more to the maritime industry than ship registrations. At the same time, there is much more that is expected from the authorities to support the maritime industry than the promotion of the flag-state.
In fact, in anticipation of Budget Day, the MMF submitted a set of 9 concrete proposals aimed at supporting the Industry and businesses within it to grow sustainably. Here it highlighted the need for better planning and stronger focus on the maritime industry when it comes to charting the way forward for the industry in line with holistic strategies at the national level. The MMF’s flagship proposals were, in fact, calls for:
- a) The re-establishment of a national Maritime Authority for Malta, and
- b) A dedicated Maritime Court
The MMF was disappointed to note that these were not included in the Budget Speech for 2023 and shall continue to pursue the matters with the authorities for the long-term benefit of the Industry.