Shipping is as important as Tourism
All over the years, we all heard the local Politicians speaking about the importance of Tourism being the largest sector of inducing money into our economy. Furthermore, this sector creates thousands of jobs which helps a lot in diminishing the rate of unemployment.
However, it is not the case when debating the shipping industry. First and foremost, it is very much unlikely to follow a debate on the maritime / shipping industry and hence the outcome is very low. We have to understand that this sector is very similar to Tourism as it also involves foreign thousand and millions of Euros into our economy. With this in mind, politicians need to look into many factors leading to enhance more business towards Malta.
First, we need to have a good legislation to regulate the market. Same as what have happened in the i-gaming industry. The legislation should signify the structure of the maritime sector in a holistic way, making it easy for those players already in the market and other new investors which will be attracted to start up their own business in Malta.
The Government, should create a body to handle all the shipping related formalities in a one stop shop. Besides, fading the bureaucracy, this office should employ skilled labour who knows shipping and what it entails. Unfortunately, today we have a situation, where, an entity has to go from one authority to another, going round departments which costs a lot of time.
Time is crucial when working in the maritime industry because the demurrage of the vessels costs thousands of Euros per hour. Every minute counts, as vessels have their own schedule and every idle time is just money wasted. Therefore, we cannot attract clients if we are not efficient. Then, to be efficient you must employ skilled employees who can handle a different situation in the least possible time. To make this happen, we need to start from the education which Malta is offering to our kids. It is of utmost importance to start organizing different courses related to the shipping industry. It is not just the Skipper license for those who like the sea or own a leisure boat. The shipping industry needs people to join the various companies we already have operating in Malta. It is their headache, to teach their employees by giving them an on the job training. Unlike, ITS in Tourism studies, the shipping industry is an orphan and has to organize a lot of work by its own. It is vital to have courses in Shipping Agents, Ship Shandling, Crewing Agencies, Navigation Charts Reading, Marine Surveyors, Designated Persons Ashore, etc.
The Legislation shall then reflect these qualifications in the Standards Malta needs to reach. For example, today, there is no legislation to cover the Shipping Agents in Malta. This leaves an anarchy situation which needs to be addressed soon. If Malta would like to be transformed into a maritime hub to make the best in Europe, our standards should be more of a high value. Therefore, a license should be the least requisite for anyway to operate a Shipping Agency. Even the employees can be a subject to such qualification. Our island should provide the best service to its foreign clients and this can only be reached by education and all over the years it can be better when these people will be experienced doing these kind of jobs.
Talking about investors means business and business means money. The Government can amend the taxation law, to attract investors to start up a business in this field. As like other sectors, the shipping related business should benefit from grants and other advantageous offers to choose Malta from other nearby foreign countries. On the same lines, Malta should attract world renowned Banks especially those who offer commodity trading facilities which to date is not being offered by any bank.
Another point which needs to be tackled is to have a good infrastructure to carry out shipments. We need to have good quays where the vessels can berth without problems. We need more space as berthing jetties to cater for the demand which we already have and plan to create new ones for future business. This includes the new building of marinas and expansion of the existing ones where possible. We require more fuel storages and jetties where tankers can load and discharge fuel in shore tanks.
Lately, we heard a lot of news about fuel but unfortunately in a negative way, which makes the people think that fuel means smuggling and monkey business. This is not the truth as for any other field in the world there is the good side and the bad too. However, it is imperative to have a good legislation which disciplines the market and cater for incidents like smuggling by introducing tough penalties to those who will be caught. Discipline is a virtue which delivers the message that our country is of a high standard maritime hub which has the interest to receive foreigners and offer them a good legitimate service where if something goes wrong the law explicit the rules of the market and actions can be taken if needed.
Chief Executive Officer
Safe Berth Agency