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On Monday 8th June 2015, the Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth has launched Malta’s National Integrated Maritime Policy. The Policy document sets out the terms of reference for improved performance in the Maritime Economy taking into consideration the input of Maltese business so as to encourage further investment. The identified policy enablers are maritime education, safety & security, research and innovation and good governance. The Document highlights the main economic pillars of focus in an effort to achieve Blue Growth. The Policy seeks to promote the formation of a number of maritime clusters aimed to create collaborative platforms between the various stakeholders.

The blue economy (or blue growth) aims to promote a more sustainable maritime economy – in broad terms, seeking to strike the right balance between reaping economic growth from our coasts, seas and oceans, while at the same time safeguarding their longer term health. To this effect, in its Communication on Blue Growth, the European Commission shows how Europe’s ocean ecosystems can contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy and potentially be a major source for sustainable economic and social benefits. Nevertheless, “innovation across all sectors of the blue economy is crucial for realising its growth and jobs potential” and to overcome barriers specific to the blue economy, such as:

  • Knowledge and data gaps about the state of our oceans, seabed resources, marine life and risks to habitats and ecosystem;
  • Skills gap in applying new technologies in the marine environment;
  • Lack of concise research efforts in marine and maritime science that hinders interdisciplinary learning and slows the progress of technological breakthrough in key technologies and innovative business sectors.

The blue economy is also spearheaded to contribute towards the EU’s international competitiveness, resource efficiency and new sources of growth whilst safeguarding biodiversity and protecting the marine environment.

Malta acknowledges the importance of the blue economy, particularly in view that the seas and oceans are being seen as a source of economic growth, job creation and innovation. Malta considers the blue economy as one of its priority areas and is determined to build on its experience as a maritime nation to generate blue growth.

Because of the diverse economic activities that make up the maritime sector, Malta considers that issues cannot be addressed in a sectoral manner but rather with a more integrated perspective. This would in turn increase opportunities to achieve better results since all major stakeholders can participate in the formulation of policies and actions. To this effect and under the framework of the European Union (EU), Malta has developed an Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), which reinforces cooperation and effective coordination of all maritime-related policies.

Furthermore, with the growing awareness both at political and industry levels to harness the potential of the maritime sector, Malta has seen the need to join other European success stories in establishing a maritime cluster organisation in line with the IMP – hence, the establishment of Malta Marittima Agency on 13 April 2016. In order to support the implementation of the IMP and strengthen the maritime cluster as necessary, the Agency will ensure that an integrated approach is adopted by maintaining open dialogue and offering stable and competitive framework conditions.

Nevertheless, Malta recognises the fact that further efforts are needed, particularly with regard to research and innovation in order to tap into the high growth potential of the blue economy. In this regard, the sharing of marine knowledge can play a vital role for Blue Growth, as well as the protection of marine life. Moreover, Malta recognises that specialised training will lead to further innovation in the blue sector resulting in a growth of the maritime economy. In this context, Malta encourages the establishment of closer relationships between specialised universities and training agencies in order to address the skills gaps identified in the blue sector.

Malta depends greatly on the maritime sector. As an island, this sector is is interlinked with other sectors of our economy, such as tourism. Hence, Malta considers it vital that the blue economy continues to be developed in an integrated approach but also in a sustainable manner in order to continue to reap economic growth from our coasts, seas and oceans, while at the same time safeguarding their longer term health.

Malta is determined to build on its experience as a maritime nation to generate blue growth. Nevertheless, Malta recognises the fact that further efforts are needed with regard to research and innovation in order to tap into the high growth potential of the blue economy. In this regard, Malta is pleased to note additional efforts to complement existing initiatives (such as those coming from Horizon 2020 and the EU’s Structural and Investment Funds) to further develop the blue economy.

Malta considers education as a key driver to innovation. In this regard, it is pleased to note that the European Commission is pushing for more initiatives to address the challenge of skills mismatch and increasing the visibility of job opportunities in the blue economy. Malta is committed to increase cooperation between institutions and maritime industries to direct further investment in specialised training in marine and maritime affairs, as well as to support innovative initiatives, particularly those originating from the private sector.

Moreover, Malta is pleased to note that the calls are also promoting ‘smart partnerships’, particularly in the Blue Labs calls. Malta recognises the fact that such partnerships would strengthen maritime governance and involve all stakeholders from the public, private and research communities in promoting enhanced development of the maritime sector and generate economic growth. To this effect, Malta considers such partnerships as significant to achieve the ultimate goal of our Integrated Maritime Policy – that is to transform Malta into a maritime hub of excellence, which is expected to host a variety of innovative sectors (e.g. maritime engineering, services and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)). Moreover, this ties into the concept of clusters which would provide more integrated and improved services in the maritime industry.

Malta regards the Blue Growth calls as a step in the right direction towards the effective facilitation of financing innovative ideas. Furthermore, Malta considers that better research, innovation and cooperation will open up new economic potential. With the help of European support, such as through Horizon 2020 and the Blue Growth calls under the EMFF, industries will also be able to take advantage of the new avenues for research and development and push their concept ideas to the market.

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