For the second year running the Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) articulated a set of concrete, maritime-focused proposals for the national Budget. The MMF was delighted to present its document in person to the Minister of Finance earlier in September where each of its nine recommendations were elaborated upon.

The MMF’s vision for the forthcoming budget is all about supporting the industry and businesses within it to grow sustainably. The recommendations, in fact, generally emphasise 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 is making further representations in favour of enhanced investor relationships with the authorities and for more active promotion of Malta’s maritime industry overseas. The Forum also appeals for the promotion of Blue Skills as well as the establishment of internationally recognized standards, where these are yet not in place.

The industry’s flagship proposal remains the need for detaching maritime industry responsibilities from Transport Malta and re-establish a National Maritime Authority. In the context of the forthcoming budget, the MMF is calling on policy makers to channel the necessary funds and setting in place the necessary financial re-organisation to allow for Transport Malta to be divided into separate entities, one of which would be exclusively dedicated to maritime. The MMF accepts and expects that this measure would require government to enforce strict controls and management practices to ensure that overheads and costs of administration do not swell and outweigh the benefits. Otherwise, Industry players’ are convinced that business will grow further once their regulatory counterparts are geared up for better specialisation and focus on maritime affairs. Dedicated resources will also improve reaction time and the manner in which urgent issues can we dealt with more promptly. This way forward would also certainly impart a stronger message to the international maritime community as do other competing jurisdictions with dedicated maritime authorities.

In a similar vein, the MMF also advocated the need for a dedicated Maritime Court. The Forum’s position on this matter is well documented. By having maritime litigation heard and decided swiftly by a specialised court renders Malta a more attractive jurisdiction with substantial service multiplier effects. The call for a specialised maritime court compliments the country’s aspirations to reaffirm its position of distinction in the maritime sector.

Establishing the dedicated Maritime Court would send a sign of recognition that Malta is constantly competing in a global village. In this context, the MMF requested a more meaningful backing to local and foreign investors in order to ensure the latest infrastructure and technology endowment that would result in the most efficient and sustainable connectivity links for our Islands. In this context, investors expect the authorities to communicate consistent policy messages in favour of the maritime industry in tune with its systemic importance to the country but at the same time ensuring that the communicated policies are actually carried out down the line. It is also crucial for the maritime industry to become included within the scope of investment incentives and other forms of public-funded support afforded by the authorities from time to time.

Linked to the above, as the interlocutor for the industry, the Malta Maritime Forum expects to be consulted by the authorities on matters of maritime policy wherever necessary with individual operators when issues at stake are material to investment decisions.

The MMF’s Budget document includes a proposal for the articulation of a National Maritime Transport strategy is required to provide statements of principle, objectives and directions to the country. The document would spell out Government’s vision and goals for the maritime sector. Governments may reach out to specialised multilateral organisations for support in drawing up such a policy which would give direction to investors as to the channelling of the right resources in the appropriate doses towards achieving the country’s aims. Besides, the Policy would contribute to ensure that the Industry is governed in an efficient, consistent, sustainable, safe and environmentally sound manner

In its 2023 Budget Proposal document, the MMF also pronounced itself of other matters of prime national importance such as the proposed Exclusive Economic Zone, land reclamation, a proposal for the introduction of Standard Operating Procedures for Bunkering and the need for investment in ensuring the Skills and Competences Required in the Maritime Industry.

The proposals put forward by the MMF are largely composed of feedback and technical input received from its members and are the product of an active and exhaustive internal consultation process with members. As the national maritime cluster, the MMF makes it a point to engage with its members actively and regularly with a view to ensure it is in a position to act as a common platform for Malta based entities involved in the maritime transport and logistics sector in Malta. By means of this latest document, the MMF, is fulfilling one of it main purposes of influencing national maritime policy by facilitating communication between the Maritime Community and Government to assist and promote the development of this industry in general.

Published: Malta Business Weekly

Karin Grech
Author: Karin Grech