Safety and security at sea are undoubtedly elements that create the necessary conditions indispensible for economic growth. The effective adoption and enforcement of internationally-agreed rules and standards, in particular those endorsed by the International Maritime Organisation and the International Labour Organisation, are essential to ensure a level playing-field for safe, secure and environmentally friendly shipping of global trade. The core principles advocated by international maritime institutions will always be set high on Malta’s political agenda and the Government will be instrumental in ensuring that any future maritime related EU policies are aligned closely with international standards.
The EU’s maritime industry contributes significantly to the global European economy. Therefore, ensuring that the European maritime sector keeps abreast with the latest technological, political and legislative developments is crucial for Europe to maintain its leading position. It is recognised that further action is required to maintain and attract safe and sustainable quality shipping to the European Union. In this regard, the Government is committed to offer its input and contribution within the EU decision-making processes.
In such a dynamic environment, good governance is vital to improve Malta’s standing vis-à-vis the security and safety services it offers within its ports and for all the maritime activities carried out within its waters.
Transport Malta is the responsible authority for maritime and port security, which includes also the general security of Malta’s marinas. Furthermore, Transport Malta is supported by the Armed Forces of Malta for the monitoring of maritime activities at other coastal areas and of offshore activities, as well as the involvement of the Police Force in carrying out port security operations.
Port security is regulated by Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security and Directive 2005/65/EC on enhancing port security. Malta has maintained its reputation of having a very good standard of port security and overall, has a satisfactory compliance history with the respective EU legislation. The Government will actively seek to strengthen standard safety practices and procedures through further infrastructural investments and the development of the relevant expertise. Nevertheless, the minor shortcomings, which are present, have to be addressed by better allocating resources and by coordinating between the relevant competent entities.
The major ports housing critical and strategic assets (such as the Ricasoli Tank Cleaning Farm and Kordin Grain Terminal) are under continuous surveillance and monitoring. Considerable progress has been registered in this regard in recent decades and more targeted efforts will be pursued.
In 2014, the European Council has recently adopted the European Union Maritime Security Strategy for the global maritime domain and an action plan to implement the Strategy. The objective of this Strategy is to provide a common framework for relevant authorities at national and European levels to ensure coherent development of their specific policies and to organise a European response to maritime threats and risks. Malta supports both the Strategy and action plan as they are aimed towards safeguarding the EU’s strategic maritime interests and promotes options to act and cooperate accordingly.
Search and Rescue
The geopolitical situation within the Mediterranean Sea Basin has always posed challenges for Malta’s obligations with respect to its Search and Rescue Area - obligations which Malta has always met with great determination.
In December 2015, the European Commission presented the Proposal for the establishment of a European Border and Coast Guard which replace and significantly reinforce the mandate of Frontex (the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the EU) in the fields of external border management and return, including search and rescue operations. Malta will participate in the current and future discussions on this Proposal.
Maritime Crisis Response and Contingency Planning
The Civil Protection Department within the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security is responsible for the general safety and protection of society by coordinating its capabilities and available resources within Government Ministries such as the Police Corp, the Armed Forces and the Health Authorities. A Marine Operations Unit was created as first response in case of sea-based accidents and includes the management of oil spills, a marine fire fighting unit and a life boat rescue system.
Transport Malta is the National Competent Authority responsible for the coordination of all stakeholders during a response operation at sea, tasked with enhancing and managing national capabilities, resources and preparedness in the eventuality of pollution incidents. All operations are coordinated by the Transport Malta’s Emergency Control Centre, with the assistance of the Armed Forces, the Police Force, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) and the Civil Protection Department. Other parties which might be included in a pollution control exercise are the Health Department, the Regional Marine Pollution Response Centre for the Mediterranean (REMPEC) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
Improved coordination between the activities of the Police Force, the Armed Forces and the Civil Protection Department is evidently necessary to maintain Malta’s positive reputation as a secure destination for maritime activities, as well as to ensure Malta’s economic development within its extensive maritime territory.
Malta has been an active supporter of the European Maritime Safety Agency. Besides supporting the EU in the development and implementation of legislation related to maritime safety, pollution by ships and maritime security, it has also been given operational tasks in the field of oil pollution response, vessel monitoring and in long range identification and tracking of vessels.
1. This policy document recommends the establishment of a Single Maritime Crisis Response and Contingency Planning Force within the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security that would incorporate the elements of maritime safety, security and surveillance. The establishment of this Force would enhance accountability and coordination, reduce duplication of work and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy. The development of a unified maritime position will provide the necessary conditions ensuring the protection, safety and security of Malta’s maritime assets.
2. The continuous improvement and upgrading of real-time surveillance solutions including satellite systems, along with situational and analytical technology, skills and capacity, will enhance maritime safety, security and surveillance. It is evident that Malta needs to improve its surveillance systems particularly for offshore activities. This may be done in collaboration with the private industry which may be technically better equipped than the Government to provide reliable surveillance services in line with the specifications required by the State.
3. Malta’s policy in respect to ports infrastructure was always based on a reactionary approach and thus decisions were mostly taken as a response to economic developments that had already taken place rather than pre-empting future trends. Consequently, it is imperative that such policy is no longer advocated and a more proactive policy approach and future-geared decision making process is adopted. This is essential to ensure appropriate preparedness for economic growth and developments. Infrastructural decisions taken proactively will contribute to the effective implementation of security and safety measures both within harbours and offshore.
A study, commissioned by the European Commission under the framework of the Integrated Maritime Policy, on the costs and benefits arising from the establishment of maritime zones indicate that Malta has yet to claim its territory. The study identifies the threats and opportunities of such a decision and concludes that Malta will be a net beneficiary, aiming for growth in the fisheries industry and a sustainable plan for the marine conservation and environmental protection zones.