by the Hon. Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects
Dr Aaron Farrugia
In recent decades, the aims of various administrations have focused on diversification and increasing relevance in modern global economy.
As an island state, the Blue Economy is an integral part of this and Malta’s strategy is to leverage opportunities to further develop Malta as a Centre of Maritime Excellence whilst ensuring that the marine environment remains protected.
From Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Dun Karm, the world has never stopped poetising the sea’s wide expanse; silent and tranquil, or agitated and tempestuous; as being the very warp and weft of island nations like Malta.
This intrinsic marriage with the sea is still top of mind for the minister responsible for all things maritime. Minister Aaron Farrugia is no stranger to this sector, it having been his erstwhile stomping ground before his debut into politics. “I have accepted this new portfolio with humility, knowing that there are many facades of this important industry that need to be further explored. For sure, together with all stakeholders I have to build on the successes achieved so far,” said Minister Farrugia.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSULTATION
Consultation and discussion are an integral part of policy development for the minister. This is an area where not only a great many livelihoods are affected directly but also wherein a responsibility to humankind is owed. Minister Farrugia thus sees his role as also being a listener and catalyst aimed at striking balance between conservation and sustainability for the further development of the blue economy
“The Blue economy is also recognised as one of the pillars of future development by the European Commission and we need to ensure that whilst we protect the marine environment, we also leverage any opportunities that exist to further develop Malta as a Centre of Maritime Excellence, thus creating added value jobs and added value to our economy.
This can only be achieved through an open dialogue with all involved. The maritime industry has always worked with vision and I am confident that we will continue to achieve positive results in the interest of the marine environment and the industry.
we need to ensure that whilst we protect the marine environment, we also leverage any opportunities that exist to further develop Malta as a Centre of Maritime Excellence, thus creating added value jobs and added value to our
SOCIAL IMPACT-DELICATE BALANCE
“Minister Farrugia too believes that sustainability prerogatives on economic, environmental, and social impacts ought to be factored into policymaking for a blue economy, and thus, “public consultation is considered as a valuable element in policy making for a blue economy, particularly for Malta, being an island state where the sea plays a central role, both to its local economy as well as to the population’s well-being, health and quality of life. I am determined to maintain an open dialogue with all players in the sector to achieve this,” he explained.
And an open dialogue is vital when achieving balance is a complex matter. Going green must withstand people’s inherent and rightful need to grow and develop. This idea had already been expressed by Minister Farrugia when he was minister responsible for the environment. However, the balancing act is a delicate one. “Reducing the impact of human activities on the sea is a collective responsibility.
Embracing a sustainable maritime sector can play a vital
role in many aspects of the work to combat pollution and
can benefit from new opportunities arising from that work.
Greening the maritime sector could provide potential
economic advantages and thus efforts should be made
to reap opportunities. I am committed to leaving no stone
unturned to identify and implement them,” observed
Greening the maritime sector could provide potential economic advantages and thus efforts should be made to reap opportunities
Malta’s Ship to Shore Power Infrastructure Project is set to enable berthed ships to switch off their gas or heavy-fuel-oil fired engines and plug into the national grid. The Malta Freeport connectivity to the national grid alone eliminates circa 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air.
photo: Malta Freeport Terminals in operation with multiple ships
A FINITE RESOURCE
This is an ambitious plan but not without its hazards as a delicate balance between economy and sustainability must be established. “A sustainable maritime sector has the potential of creating tangible opportunities for new jobs and businesses. They could be undertaken by building a resilient economic model based on innovation, with a culture of preserving the marine environment and coastal areas. This in turn incentivises quality, and sustainable tourism; which is more in demand thanks to an increase in environmental awareness,” said Minister Farrugia.
Having the largest Ship Register in Europe and the sixth largest merchant Ship Register in the world, Malta also has a significant role to play on the international stage, particularly as an elected member of the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Within the IMO, pointed out Minister Farrugia, Malta actively participates in the negotiations currently focusing on the reduction
of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping as its main priority. Other areas of marine environment
protection include work relating to marine plastic litter, and sulphur emissions from ships. “Together with all the other Mediterranean littoral states, and with the coordination of REMPEC having its seat in Malta, Malta has successfully submitted a proposal to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to designate the Mediterranean Sea as a Sulphur Emissions Control Area. This is expected to result in cleaner air in coastal areas,”
Minister Farrugia explained.
A sustainable maritime
sector has the potential
of creating tangible
opportunities for new
jobs and businesses
photo: Minister Aaron Farrugia on a panel during the Malta Maritime Summit 2022, next to Professor George Theocharidis from the World Maritime University, Portugal Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs Jose Maria Costa, Greek Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis and Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister Vassilios Demetriades.
ADAPTATION IS KEY
Indeed, maritime transport makes up 12% of global pollution. Malta, too, is adapting to new technologies
in line with addressing climate change, which Minister Farrugia described as “one of the greatest challenges of this decade”. This, he added, will inevitably see the light of a new era for the development of alternative low and zero-carbon fuels. “The maritime transport sector will require an innovative source of energy, particularly to achieve the ambitious global and EU goals for the decarbonisation of the sector. As a bunkering hub, Malta has great potential to reap business opportunities in this energy transformation, including through diversification, whilst contributing to the fight against climate change,” continued Minister Farrugia.
Besides the challenges posed by climate change, Malta is also determined to keep pursuing the opportunities provided by this burgeoning sector. “As an island State, the opportunities in this area are considerable. Maritime education and ocean literacy are definitely an area where we can achieve more.
The greening of shipping and the relative research and innovation are another important aspect that we will be looking at. The digital transformation of the sector can also increase the efficiency of maritime trade which will impact us directly.
Finally, the utilisation of our port and maritime areas needs to be studied in detail in order to better identify potential opportunities and to make sure that a delicate balance is achieved between development and sustainability,” observed Minister Farrugia
Naturally, such opportunities require the cooperation of various sectors including banking, a sector more known for its conservatism than for its avant garde approaches. The maritime industry does not exist in a vacuum, observed Minister Farrugia.
The digital transformation of
the sector can also increase
the efficiency of maritime
trade which will impact us
“This industry is experiencing the same challenges faced by most other sectors of the economy when it comes to banking. As a Government, we have made this a priority to identify ways to make our banking system more efficientwhilst adhering to rigorous international standards – thus ensuring improvements whilst maintaining the reputational integrity of the country,” he then noted.
Malta has often been viewed as an ideal entrepot in the Mediterranean. This geopolitical location has been used with success in the airline industry, and, we asked Minister Farrugia, is the connectivity sufficient for expansion in the maritime industry?
“Malta’s location in the centre of the Mediterranean has always been a key element in boosting its maritime sector. This is not the only element, though: Malta’s track record of being a reputable ship registration jurisdiction and the high level of services provided, including adaptability to emerging trends, are also crucial elements attracting maritime business to Malta. Building on these success stories, we will continue to explore how to improve connectivity. Again, as an island State this is of utmost importance to the further development of our economy; one has to keep in mind that more than 90% of Malta’s commodities are imported by sea,” observed Minister Farrugia.
Malta Maritime Forum’s Chairperson Judge Emeritus Zammit McKeon wrote: “Like every other business, maritime operators are being expected to embrace and manage the so-called “twin transitions” of digitalisation and the green economy. The challenges and regulatory demands arising from climate change strategies are extremely onerous and the maritime industry needs to build capacity and know-how to enable it to face the transformations.”
Minister Farrugia is very much on the same page on these matters. “Indeed, addressing GHG emissions from ships and the digitalisation of the maritime industry are the two main and important pillars for policy considerations of the sector. One needs to consider these issues in view of the changes in maritime technologies, practices and natural evolution of a sector subject to increased global competition,” he noted
Dr Farrugia believes that “GHG emissions from ships and the digitalisation of the maritime industry are the two main and important pillars for policy considerations of the sector.” photo: Visualisation of a container ‘windship’, from French naval architects Ayro-VPLP.
Malta’s location in the
centre of the Mediterranean
has always been a key
element in boosting its
maritime sector. This is not
the only element
He added that the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships is currently the main priority of the International Maritime Organization, and policy discussions are currently ongoing to implement in practice the ambitious goals to be met for the eventual decarbonisation of international shipping. This is also a priority of the EU, whose political objectives include the larger role devoted to sustainability efforts, as reflected in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Green Deal, the “Fit for 55” package and the Zero Pollution Strategy. “EU legislation currently in the pipeline is expected to bring about a new era in terms of regulatory compliance with a number of new obligations,” Minister Farrugia explained.
HARNESSING DRIVING FORCES
Digitalisation is a major driving force in all areas of the economy and the maritime sector is no exception. “One of the main aims of digitalisation in this area is to facilitate exchanges of information between maritime operators and administrations, accompanied by a harmonised digital environment, so as to increase safety, efficiency, regulation and environmental protection. We are indeed guided by this policy and that is the reason why we have embarked on the
digital transformation of the whole operations of the Malta Ship Register – an ambitious project on which good progress has already been registered and which we are in the process of implementing,” said Minister Farrugia.
With eyes set firmly on the future, Minister Farrugia is very conscious of the current constraints arising from the twin fall-out from the COVID Pandemic and the situation in Ukraine. “Being a small island state dependent on shipping, Malta is perforce susceptible to issues taking place globally,” pointed out Minister Farrugia. He however also observed that the consistency of policy which Malta has given throughout the years to its maritime sector has demonstrated to the world that it knows where it stands and knows what to expect. “This element of consistency and, to a certain extent, predictably, has proved to be one of our strong points, attracting stakeholders to Malta as a stable maritime hub.
On these lines, our efforts would be to maintain continuous improvement, striving for excellence in this important sector. I am confident that yet again, and together with the constructive involvement of all stakeholders, we will rise to the occasion and further consolidate this crucial industry,” concluded Minister Farrugia