Over the years Malta has developed into a service oriented economy through the provision of a number of professional services being legal, financial or technical. This holds true also in the Maritime Sector. Malta is a leader in the field of Maritime Law, has an extensive history of ship repair services and provided several able seafarers across the oceans. Maritime Services are thus an integral pillar of Malta’s blue economy. Hence, through the Integrated Maritime Policy and in line with Blue Growth objectives, there are a number of initiatives that will be explored.
Maritime Legal Framework
The Government of Malta will explore expanding the maritime sector by reviewing the current legal institutions.
Although having a strong legal framework, Malta can progress more to position itself as a major Maritime litigation hub. To date most litigation cases are being dealt with and/or settled in other European Ports. Hence, the establishment of a Vice Admiralty Court and a revamped International Arbitration Centre will provide growth potential in the maritime legal services offered, as well as high end opportunities for legal professionals.
The establishment of these institutions, coupled with effective marketing and a competitive fiscal environment, will convey the message to the maritime world that Malta is in a position to provide efficient and advantageous all-embracing maritime legal and corporate services. Furthermore, it will increase Malta’s visibility in the market as a centre of Maritime excellence.
The foreshore, bays, seabed and territorial seas are all declared Public Domain. Such areas have experienced limited investment initiatives in the past. The Government, under the legal framework of a Public Domain Act will aim to address this situation, whilst ensuring the protection of the environmental, cultural and ecological heritage for our future generations.
Malta Ship Register
Throughout the years, the Maltese flag was able to earn an excellent reputation with ship owners and ship management companies. This is evidenced by the ever increasing numbers of registered vessels bearing the Maltese flag. As at 2013, the number of Malta-flagged vessels exceeded the gross tonnage of 50 million tonnes. This consolidated Malta’s position as the largest merchant flag in the European Union. In fact, the Maltese flag is ranked in the seventh place worldwide according to the latest statistics.
This achievement would not have been possible without the various initiatives which were undertaken in an effort to promote the Maltese Flag. In order to maintain the flag’s reputation worldwide, Transport Malta appoints inspectors to ensure that vessels bearing the Maltese flag are in compliance with International Maritime Organization and International Labour Organization conventions.
The Maltese Government will strive to maintain its position as a leading nation in ship registration. Malta will explore growth opportunities by considering the creation of re-domiciliation incentives for companies to relocate within the EU’s jurisdiction and the creation of attractive conditions for an environmentally friendly platform for maritime transport. In addition, Malta will strive to attract companies that perform ship recycling according to Directive 2009/16/EC ensuring that this is carried out in accordance with approved international environmental procedures and standards.
The prospect of establishing a Ships’ Management hub in Malta has to be reviewed. The Government will explore this opportunity that compliments the ships’ register in an effort to create more blue jobs and which would widen the maritime services; thus, positioning Malta in a better competitive situation.
The Government will explore the possibility of setting up a seafarer’s register and create financial incentives for Maltese registered shipping lines that provide seafarer training opportunities for Maltese and EU nationals alike. Malta will ensure that it has available human resources with the right set of skills by supporting organisations providing merchant ship training, as well as promoting maritime employment by considering fiscal incentive schemes for seafarers (e.g. similar to the UK Seafarers Earnings Deduction scheme), especially for those working outside the EU territorial waters.
Moreover, the Government of Malta will support this initiative through the establishment of a Maritime Academy, where training opportunities are offered beyond those governed by Directive 2008/106/EC on the minimum level of training of seafarers at EU level. Through this Academy, Malta would be further investing in human capital specific to the maritime sector with the aim of establishing itself as a centre of excellence in the area.
ICT & E-Maritime
E-Maritime is an EU initiative that aims to foster the use of advanced information technologies for working and doing business in the maritime transport sector.
In recent decades, Malta has earned a reputation for being one of the leading countries in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at EU level. The benefits of such a success have worked their way into various business sectors; thus, Government aims to extend ICT development into the maritime sector. Nowadays, most vessels, yachts and oil rigs are equipped with state of the art technology. These require various ICT support services including maintenance, new software applications and electronic systems to keep up with the market and operational demands. Moreover, ICT technologies and systems will be implemented to sustain the necessary improvement in logistics. Therefore, the establishment of an appropriate framework will provide a good platform for the development of the necessary ICT systems to ensure the effective management of data and economic growth.
To further strengthen the e-Maritime concept in Malta, the Government of Malta will launch an online web portal to function as a link between the various maritime stakeholders. This would facilitate business activity and lead to improved communication and real-time interaction.
In 2010, the European Commission entrusted the Task Force on Maritime Employment and Competitiveness to identify obstacles both to the entry to the maritime profession by European youngsters and their recruitment by European employers, and to develop a number of recommendations in this regard. The report recognises “the importance of modern communications, encompassing the use of telephone, e-mail and the internet, including access to social and educational networks” onboard ships. However, it also identifies that the availability of service on the high seas can be problematic, performance poor and costs very high”. The report concludes on the need for the improvement of communications on board ships (internet), including the management of such technologies to ensure their reasonable use on board.
Malta should investigate the possibility of exploiting such a niche market and to act on an international level by identifying market opportunities with respect to the future use of IT systems on board ships. Furthermore, Malta could also consider providing free WIFI services within its port facilities to facilitate crew members on ships during their stay in Maltese ports.
Ship Repairs & Beyond
Ship repair is experiencing a resurgence in Malta and after a few difficult years the three shipyards on the island are focusing on tapping niche opportunities and luring in new business. The history of the island’s Grand Harbour has always been intimately linked to maritime business and shipbuilding and the three shipyards located along the French Creek are running a healthy operation. The industry’s roots date back to the time of the Knights of St John and in its heyday under the British, the shipyard used to employ around 12,000 workers. Nationalised in 1975, the Malta Drydocks Corporation was formed, eventually becoming Malta Shipyards. Registering losses and on its knees, the largest shipyard in the Mediterranean was privatised and sold to Palumbo Group in 2010. Under the stewardship of a third-generation Italian Palumbo family, the company invested in new equipment and new working methods injecting more millions in turnover directly into the Maltese economy. In an unpredictable industry that has recently taken a few knocks, Palumbo Group has recognised the shift and diversified. It has serviced the oil and gas sector with a record number of rigs in just seven years – reaching an annual average of 200 vessels – and going on to last year secure third place worldwide for cruise ship refitting. Flanked by two privately run enterprises that are run on a smaller scale — Cassar Ship Repair and Bezzina Shipyard — Palumbo Malta beat stiff competition from Marseille and Barcelona to win this prestigious ranking. Opportunities to shift to higher added value work, including LNG conversions of vessels are also starting to emerge within the EU, and the Government is focused on exploring, supporting and promoting initiatives in these emerging areas. In fact, Palumbo Malta Shipyard has, after two long years of controls and auditing, achieved accreditationfrom the internationally renowned French company GTT (Gaztransport&Technigaz)to carry out maintenance on LNG vessels in the Malta yard. As the volatile industry shifts, Malta is working on pursuing repair services to ships, oil rigs and yachts by targeting specific niche markets. The Central Mediterranean and North African region has always been an attractive market for international operators and due to its strategic geographic position, it has established trade routes to key western and eastern markets. Exploration and development plans in the region are moving forward at a fast pace, creating the need to further develop the existing infrastructure for this sector’s successful growth. Malta’s sociopolitical stability and geographical position is encouraging development opportunities within the sector, enabling possible joint ventures with local companies to attract and service new businesses. The Government, in collaboration with the private sector and through the development of the state-of-the-art Malta Maritime Hub, is determined to have a bright future by offering holistic and fully integrated facilities and services to the oil and gas industry. The Government is keen to see this project rekindling the trades and skills of the past and is pursuing policies that will foster the development of oil and gas services and enable the area to flourish, giving the island a competitive edge.
Nautical and Coastal Tourism
Coastal Tourism differs in definition from Maritime Tourism. Coastal Tourism encompasses tourism that is largely water-based rather than land-based (e.g. boating, yachting, cruising, nautical sports), and includes the operation of landside facilities, manufacturing of equipment, and services necessary for this type of tourism. The quality of Malta’s bathing waters has reached a level of excellence and it is vital that this continues to be maintained in order to ensure a unique bathing experience.
Diving activities account for at least 5% of Malta’s tourism activity. Diving sites around Malta and Gozo are an important resource and their conservation is a priority. Protection of such sites both from an environmental and ecological perspective, as well as from an underwater heritage point of view, will increase the attractiveness of the local tourism product. The Government will continue to identify and to seek innovative ways of managing these areas in collaboration with private stakeholders. The Government will also ensure that through an integrated approach such an industry can continue to develop without impinging negatively on other maritime activities.
The Government will strive in creating the complimentary conditions for cruise ship tourism and yachting to flourish, including the provision of improved infrastructure, particularly on the Island of Gozo. Other possibilities will be explored such us cruise ship multiple buoy mooring at offshore sites near Comino, as well as managed buoy moorings for yachts in critical bays promoting environmental friendly pleasure cruises around the Islands, by exploring the use of alternative funding sources.
The Government will also evaluate the possibility of revising the current legislative framework to enable and promote recreational fishing that could be developed in conjunction with the management of Maritime Protected Areas.
Malta has become a popular destination for yachtsmen, sailing the Mediterranean. Yacht owners consider Malta’s strategic position and facilities complimentary to their yachting needs. This is evidenced by the addition of various new yacht marinas.
Malta’s provision of services to the yachting sector includes repair facilities, slipways and dry docks. The Government seeks to direct further investment towards the sector with the aim of establishing Malta as a leading destination for yacht owners. Currently, Malta provides berths for super yachts at both the Manoel Island Marina and at the Grand Harbour Marina.
It is the objective of the Maltese Government to continue exploring the possibility of enhancing yacht berthing facilities. The demand for berthing facilities seems to be constant and unremitting. The development of additional berths will put Malta as one of the largest super yacht hubs in the world.
Developing International Marinas goes beyond berthing opportunities. Marinas should provide high quality infrastructure and support services in their proximity, similar to those present at the Vittoriosa and Portomaso Marinas. The proposed Sa Maison marina should include adequate connecting infrastructure to Valletta centre. This approach will further attract super yachts for permanent berthing. Matching the demand for berthing places raises the importance for the provision of holistic yachting support services. This area has been identified as having huge growth potential, which should be fostered and promoted. Moreover, this could lead to further provisions of ship management facilities and services, with the aim of increasing Malta’s competitiveness in the area, which would in turn attract more ship owners to our shores.