Our seas have the potential to become important sources of clean energy. Marine renewable energy, which includes offshore solar-,wind-, as well as wave-energy, provide Malta with a potential opportunity to generate economic growth and jobs and in so doing, enable Malta to fulfil its policy to create a mixed energy supply and to boost technological innovation. Another important aspect of potential economic growth lies within the future potential of oil and gas exploration. The Government of Malta has renewed its drive to pursue opportunities in this sector in a sustainable manner.
Oil and Gas Exploration
Hydrocarbon exploration is a potentially lucrative and strategically advantageous business.. The Government of Malta has demonstrated its continuing commitment towards the establishment of this industry in Malta by encouraging exploration research studies and also through promotional campaigns. The success of Hydrocarbon exploration in Malta relies upon the compilation and interpretation of research. It will be the Government’s aim to facilitate and support exploration research towards the realisation of the existing potential with a view to its development in an environmentally sustainable way.
Moreover, the Government will consider the much needed legislation regulating Malta’s Exclusive Economic Zone to further encourage industry to invest in this sector. The establishment of an EEZ whilst further enhancing the potential for the prospective development of this industry will also proportionally increase the legislative responsibilities and obligations which pertain to Malta. It is therefore a pre-requisite to successfully implementing these efforts that Government maintains the resources required to protect and safeguard Malta’s territory.
Due to the volatility of price and supply, the energy sector has been the centre of attention across the globe. Energy is a main Government priority and much work is being undertaken to not only reform the sector but also ensure a cost-effective approach throughout. There is a high-level of commitment from the Government to provide a diversified energy mix that is both reliable and affordable. The cost of producing energy automatically feeds into the retail price of all goods and services; therefore it is imperative that these costs are maintained consistently at the lowest rates possible.
Private sector involvement is an integral component in ensuring the success of these efforts. The Government will foster for Public-Private Partnership agreements to enhance growth in this sector. This sector has the potential to create a considerable number of opportunities for Malta, and also to reduce its dependency on non-renewable energy resources. This will in turn facilitate Malta in particular towards reaching international Energy and Climate obligations. In essence, this ‘Shift’ to renewable energy will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and will facilitate good environmental status.
The Government strongly considers the exploration of blue renewable energy opportunities as a means to achieving these goals. The four main blue energy areas that are being focused upon for further study are: offshore wind farms, floating photovoltaic islands, tidal wave energy conversion and blue geothermal renewable energy. The Government will continue promoting the necessary research required in order to identify the most suitable/feasible energy source for the Maltese Islands. In this regard, the Government facilitates and encourages further collaboration between research and academic institutions, such as MCST and MCAST in the implementation of new pilot projects.
In relation to the energy sector, the levels of polluting emissions must be considered and controlled. In this context, the energy sector is obliged to account for its capacity to remain environmentally sustainable. There are various international standards and regulations that govern emissions and pollution issues. Malta has been and intends to remain at the forefront in its use of the ‘Emission abatement method and technologies’, and encouraging its use aboard its registered fleet. Moreover, Government will continue to adhere to all European and international obligations and to implement efforts in achieving its environmental goals.
The reduction of ship emissions is high on the priorities list of the European Commission and will be given prominence in the coming years, in line with Government’s policy. A more proactive approach is to be adopted to promote practices that will lead to yet further reduction of emissions which originate from ships passing through Malta’s territorial waters.
Investment in research and aid directed towards the development of new energy efficient technologies within the blue sector will not only lead to reduced stress on energy resources but could also prove to be a niche market where Malta can become a leader in the relevant expertise. In realising these efforts, Malta will utilise one of its most significant resources, i.e. human capital to ‘Tap’ the potential that the Maritime sector is providing. The Government will encourage technological research with the aim of increasing energy efficiency throughout the maritime sector.
Logistics plays a significant role in global business operations. In the local context, the logistics process can be optimised by improving maritime transportation, which is regarded to be an important component of a logistics system. The value of maritime logistics is reflected in its contributing role to other logistics services, so that the flow of goods from the supplier to the consignee is efficient and effective. In this respect, maritime transportation can be regarded as a strategically significant part of the logistics integration system within the global supply chain.
Maritime logistics goes beyond sea transportation activities, such as contracting, shipping, moving cargo and loading/unloading. It also includes supplementary services such as warehousing, stripping/stuffing, distribution centres, testing and quality control, light assembly, packaging and re-packing, as well as inter/intra modal transportation facilitation.
As the Island is strategically located along main Mediterranean trade routes, particularly being the first port of call into the EU for East-West bound shipping trade, there is potential for Malta to establish itself as a leading logistics hub, providing higher quality and competitive services to the value and supply chains. This is also reaffirmed by the announced plans for the extension of the Suez Canal, which will increase maritime traffic in the Mediterranean.
The Maritime Transport sector is going through a volatile period with changing patterns in international trade, global logistics and supply chain. Changing rules of the game with larger and fewer players would thus, require new strategies to continuously develop and evolve in order to ensure increased competitiveness and long-term sustainability. Hence, the Government is committed to maximise opportunities for the development of such value-added logistics services by encouraging the active participation of maritime operators, and by reviewing national port policies and the respective infrastructures. This will be carried out in the context of a strengthened framework of legislation having the common goal of fostering economic and employment growth and increasing commercial activities. Furthermore, maximising opportunities in the value-added maritime logistics Moreover, establishing and promoting Malta as a highly efficient logistics hub in the Mediterranean, would attract new global business.
Maritime transport ensures the security of supply of energy, food and commodities and is the main vehicle for European imports and exports. Ports are vital gateways, linking its transport corridors to the rest of the world. In fact, 74% of goods entering or leaving Europe do so via the sea. In Malta, it has been a catalyst of economic development and prosperity throughout its history. Malta has two main ports: the Port of Valletta and the Port of Marsaxlokk, which are also listed as core ports in the Trans-European Transport Network. Over 90% of all goods entering or leaving the Island pass through these ports.
The Port of Valletta is a natural deep water harbour in the Mediterranean. It is a multi-purpose port equipped to offer a large spectrum of maritime services, which include cruise liner/ferry and cargo berths, specialised grain and cement silos, petroleum installations, bunkering facilities, ship repair and building yards, and warehousing and open storage facilities. The Port of Valletta is equipped with container facilities; however, the container handling area is specifically at Laboratory Wharf, operated by Valletta Gateway Terminals.
The Port of Marsaxlokk, located in the south-eastern region of the Island, provides berthing facilities for the Malta Freeport Terminals, Oiltanking, San Lucian Oil Co., Delimara Power Station, MX Dolphins and and Enemalta’s 31 March Installation. This port is considered also as the major base port for 70% of the Maltese fishing fleet.
The Malta Freeport, located at the Port of Marsaxlokk, has established itself as a major maritime trans-shipment hub in the Mediterranean. Today, the Freeport Terminal is handling approximately 2.8 million TEUs and is working close to its full capacity. Further development of the Freeport will lead to an increase in the volume and value of its activities, as well as job creation. It is important to note that the Freeport’s activities are regulated by the Malta Freeports Act, which is continuously being updated to ensure that the necessary legislative tools are in place efficiency and the provision of the right business. A review of the Act is currently being undertaken, taking into consideration the opportunity to increase competitiveness and service diversification by further expanding the Freeport area, facilitating connectivity to air cargo and to identifying possible additions to the current operations.
Furthermore, the Government of Malta will consider infrastructural expansion at the Port of Marsaxlokk by extending the current footprint of the existing facilities and by encouraging the establishment of other zones that may be developed for added-value logistics services. This expansion will be done in line with EU initiatives, including: the ‘Motorways of the Seas’ concept aiming to improve short sea shipping connections with those ports that have strong hinterland infrastructures; the ‘Blue Belt’ initiative focusing on shipping movements between EU ports and ensuring that the treatment received is similar to land border crossings within the internal market; and ‘e-maritime’ and ‘e-freight’ initiatives aiming to reduce administrative bottlenecks through the effective use of Information Technology (IT).
Increasing such capacity will open the way for new strategies to delve into new added value opportunities. Given the size of the Island and the proximity of the airport to the Freeport, it would be ideal to render the necessary infrastructure to cater for a variety of inter-modal transport operations by means of an efficient and flexible network. In line with this objective, the Government will seek to conclude the National Single Window and proceed with the development of Port Community Services with the aim of providing services leading to business-to-business information exchange. These developments will also potentially attract foreign direct investments in the logistics sector, whilst also improving Malta’s ranking in the Global Logistics Performance index.
The bunkering business is another maritime economic activity that has experienced remarkable growth in recent years and all indicators show that there is room for further growth. Over the years, local suppliers have maintained a good business relationship with various European bunkering brokers operating in the Mediterranean and have also supplied all sorts of vessels (such as cruise liners, tankers etc.) for such activities. Bunkering operations take place alongside quays and outside ports. A number of bunkering zones have been designated by the Maltese authorities to accommodate and create the necessary conditions for this business activity to flourish. Bunkering procedures need however to be further regulated in order to ensure increased transparency and reduce the risks associated with these operations.
The Government will strive to build on the success achieved so far by facilitating new business linkages and relationships. The Government will endeavour to ensure that Malta’s market share is properly sustained by taking the necessary actions to improve monitoring and surveillance of these operations. It is imperative that ship owners are provided with high quality service in a professional manner and it is high time that certain litigation issues relating to quantity and quality discrepancies are addressed by the local competent authorities.
Moreover, the Government will take the necessary actions to support suppliers to provide ship owners with product quality requirements, in accordance with internationally recognised bunkering standards. Directive 2012/33/EU amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels foresees a number of opportunities and challenges for this sector, which could lead to the identification of new avenues for introducing alternative measures such as electrical shore supply, abatement measures (e.g. the use of scrubbers onboard ships and the use of natural gas in liquefied form (LNG) along the coast of Malta). In addition, the Directive anticipates the use of low sulphur fuel as early as 2015 for ships operating in the Northern European emission control area to use bunker oil with a maximum of 0.1% sulphur or apply alternative methods in order to achieve the same effect.
LNG development can improve reliability and consistency of energy supply in general. It also offers a cost-efficient alternative to diesel for waterborne activities with lower pollutant content and CO2 emissions, particularly to meet the new limits for sulphur content in marine fuels. LNG in shipping is economically viable, especially when considering that the current EU tariffs are considerably lower than those for heavy fuel oil and low sulphur marine gasoil. However, the lack of fuelling infrastructure and common technical specifications on refuelling equipment is hampering present market uptake. In accordance with Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, the development of LNG bunkering is another emerging business venture, which will deserve consideration in the years to come. In addition, the conversion to more efficient and environmentally friendly LNG operated vessels will become a priority and it is thus crucial for Malta to recognise this opportunity at an early stage in order to benefit from the timely entrance into the market.
LNG bunkering necessitates further studies for the establishment of onshore/offshore LNG terminals leading to the establishment of such terminals that would position Malta as a potential market leader, particularly when considering our geostrategic location, infrastructure and expertise. Directive 2014/94/EU stipulates that an appropriate number of refuelling points for LNG are to be put in place at maritime ports, to enable seagoing ships to circulate throughout the TEN-T Core Network by 31 December 2025. Malta will aim to be an early first-mover in this sector in order to attract new business opportunities.
Transhipment of Petro-chemical Products
The transhipment of petroleum products is undoubtedly an economic activity which deserves recognition and promotion. Petroleum product transhipment takes place at different berths in the port of Marsaxlokk. The jetties can handle vessels with a deadweight of 2,500 tons to approximately 100,000 tons. Malta’s strategic position has always played a vital role in attracting international traders to make use of the local storage and handling facilities, such as those of Oil tanking Ltd. and Enemalta Corporation, in order to supply their customers, particularly to clients in North Africa and the Middle East, with a variety of petroleum products. We can confidently state that over the years Malta has established a good reputation in the international market as a reliable and efficient partner.
A service offered in this sector is ship-to-ship (STS) transfer operations, which involves the transfer of a vessel’s cargo, be it petroleum, chemical and gaseous cargoes, to another vessel moored alongside it. Presently, the majority of these operations take place at Hurds Bank, outside Maltese territorial waters. STS transfer operations generate considerable ancillary support services, such as fendering, provision of supplies, launch service, ships’ agency services and so forth. Vessels are also subject to anchorage fees on a 24 hours basis when collecting the fenders from outside the Valletta Port. Collection of fenders takes place within territorial waters. STS transfer operations are frequently subject to operational disruptions due to the unpredictability of sea conditions resulting in delays in operations and financial losses. Disruptions impinge on the business commitments of traders. Thus, the Government will consider revising the current framework to allow these operations to take place within territorial waters. Moving along this direction will motivate more oil traders to use Malta as a transhipment hub. Operations within territorial waters will be much safer and will provide better operational and planning conditions due to the fact that disruptions caused by bad weather will be minimized. Building on the earned reputation and Malta’s geographical position, the Government will strive to continue promoting Malta as a hub for petro-chemical transhipment.
Kordin Grain Terminal
Strategically located at Valletta Grand Harbour, the Kordin Grain Terminal (KGT) is Malta's unique grain storage and trans-shipment silo terminal. KGT is involved in the logistics of grain handling, storage and transhipment. The cargoes handled include wheat, barley, maize and similar grains. Since the closure of Medigrain Silo, KGT was also entrusted with the storage of grains imported by local companies intended for local consumption. As a result, its capacity intended for transhipment purposes has been reduced and hence, the business has been on the decline for a number of years.
It is evident that the decline in the terminal’s business activities calls for more promotion on the basis of its reputation of professionalism and efficiency, with the aim of improving its visibility in the market to attract new clients. An international market research study will be conducted to explore and determine emerging market opportunities and trends. Related diversification will also be explored and studied in depth in an effort to reinvent the terminal into a success story. In this regard, public private partnership collaborations will also be considered. Moreover, the Government will explore possible solutions and/or alternatives to address the anomaly with respect to KGT’s berthing facilities currently being shared by different operations to mitigate the costly disruptions in operations.
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.
Fisheries have always played an integral part of the Maltese economy, providing income to numerous households throughout history. Fish caught in Maltese territorial waters is not only consumed locally but an increasing share of catches is being exported to foreign markets. The physical and resource constraints faced by local fishermen must be taken into consideration when examining the context and growth potential of the sector.
Although there are a significant number of registered fishermen, their average income is considerably low, when compared to their counterparts in the European Union and other competitor countries. This means that the share of the economy attributed to fishing is small and on the decline.
The safety and standards of the Maltese fishing fleets are a priority and thus, the Government is committed to drive the adoption of high standards for all fishing vessels and to ensure that proper safety practices are adhered to across the board. Enforcement will also play a key role in order to guarantee the security of our territorial waters.
Environmental sustainability must also be considered in the context of the development and growth of the fishing sector. The Government will ensure that biodiversity in the marine environment is protected and that Malta’s obligations in this regard are respected. This also applies to international fishing quotas, which promote sustainable fishing practices in the long-run. Furthermore, the Government remains committed to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is considered to be one of the threats hindering sustainable fishing.
In line with the EU drive to reduce wasteful fishing practices, the Government will promote the rediscovery of different fish varieties through institutions and fishing cooperatives. Moreover, the new fish market is an additional tool to foster further value added factors in the fishing industry. It will not only facilitate and offer support to the industry but also enable the sector to be more cost-effective.
The Government is committed to improve the profitability of the fisheries sector by increasing investment and targeting crucial growth areas. One of the areas that will be considered is the infrastructural improvement of fishing ports, which will help promote efficient practices whilst also protecting the local social-economic culture.
In order to add further value to the fishing sector, the Government will encourage the development of the fish processing industry and encourage a move from the primary segment (extraction phase) into the second (manufacturing phase) and third (services) segments. This would increase the share of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the Maltese economy.
The role of the public sector is to facilitate the operations of local fishermen by establishing a level-playing field platform whilst offering much needed support and aid to growing entities. The aim is to reverse current trends of reduction in catches compared to registered fishing fleets.
It is also imperative to better promote local produce in foreign markets and ensure that Malta’s high quality reputation is maintained. Food quality minimum standards must be improved in order to increase the attractiveness of the Maltese product abroad and create a competitive advantage in the market. To this effect, the Government has outlined the support for these initiatives and opportunities through the Operational Programme 2014-2020 that is linked to the EMFF strategy objectives.
The Government will also explore the possibility of amalgamating two of the country’s main sources of employment and income, namely; fishing and tourism. The concept of fishing tourism is becoming increasingly popular in the international scene and it would be wise for Malta to tap into this new niche.
The aquaculture sector has developed and grown significantly over the last decade, mostly thanks to investment towards research and innovation. Years of work have enabled Malta to build a respectable reputation in this field at the international level. Malta does face physical constraints in relation to the volume of cost-effective fish farms it can host close to its shores; nevertheless, opportunities do exist to promote the location of farms further out at sea. This would also have lesser impacts on water quality, competition with other uses, as well as intrusion in coastal landscapes. Furthermore, it can surely consolidate the latter factors with its strengths in knowledge and expertise, particularly where research is being made on farming of new species.
In 2012, farmed fish production exceeded beef production at the global level and we have also reached the point where the number of fish produced through aquaculture matches that of fish caught in the wild. Notwithstanding, aquaculture production has stagnated in recent years, partially due to the low return on the most common species produced and partially due to environmental concerns related to fish farming.
The environmental considerations associated with this sector must be carefully evaluated and the implications need to be studied in order to ensure the overall wellbeing of the marine environment. In this respect, there is a need to promote research and innovation in new environmentally sustainable technologies in aquaculture. Amongst the new production technologies being developed is the Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). IMTA has been identified by the EU as a long term sustainable opportunity for commercial aquaculture and, to this effect, an EU funded research project (i.e. Increasing Industrial Resource Efficiency in European Mariculture (IDREEM)) has been launched-.
The Government plans to further invest in research relating to the aquaculture sector, especially targeting new higher value added species as well as innovative sustainable production technologies. The exploration of new markets, niche demands as well as new production technologies will also be explored in order to diversify the local knowledge-base. This will lead to the commercialisation of research carried out and increase the profitability of the sector. A concentration of a highly skilled workforce will further strengthen Malta’s already positive reputation and enable us to export knowledge and expertise to foreign markets.
At present, the Centre for Aquaculture already has very good relationship with local and foreign educational institutions with regard to fin fish species development. However, the Government is committed to encourage further collaboration and the exchange of best practices in order to fuel the growth and development of the sector.
The Government’s approach has been to encourage participation of private enterprise, as its involvement is essential for the success of the aquaculture sector and to facilitate interactions within the market.
Biotechnology and Blue Pharma
Our surrounding marine environment offers vast opportunities that go beyond the traditional business sectors but that with the support of adequate investment and research, it can contribute significantly towards economic growth. Biotechnology and blue pharma will bring about job creation, which will require a highly skilled workforce.
To cater for such skills demand, the Government will focus on offering the necessary educational framework required to train potential employees and to re-skill workers in order to meet the technical skill requirements of this dynamic market.
The biotechnology field is a vast and dynamic one and therefore the Government will identify the main priority areas that would yield the most economic growth for Malta. By doing so, it will be able to devise the adequate instruments that will lead to an optimal exploitation of the available resources in a sustainable manner. A strong relationship with the private sector in this regard is essential. Private enterprise will have a much better perception of the market and will thus be in a better position to forecast future trends in the sector. This will enable Government to provide for the ideal policy framework leading to further growth and development.
In the local context, the pharmaceutical sector has proved to be a success story and one that should be emulated throughout other sectors. The Government will continue to build on the results acquired so far with special interest in the field of blue pharma. Investment in research and product development is essential, as is the creation of a clear platform regulating the sector. The Government will promote the sector in the international fora and will ensure that the Maltese industry will be an example of best practices and high standards. Undoubtedly, education will definitely be the main pillar for growth in the blue pharma sector and the Government is committed in addressing any skills gap that may arise within the field.