The maritime sector has always been an intrinsic part of Maltese history and culture. As an island state, strategically located in the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta is highly dependent on the sea that surrounds us as one of the drivers that sustain our economy. Malta has steadily demonstrated its resilience to strengthen its maritime economic activities and to thrive as a maritime nation. Malta is a strong player in this field and has established itself as a respected provider of various maritime services most notably by developing into a well-established and reputed flag of choice; currently boasting the largest flag in Europe in terms of registered tonnage thanks to the sterling work of Transport Malta and the various professionals who invested in this field.
Malta may be a small island state but commands a loud respected voice at the European Union and International Maritime Organisation meetings insofar as maritime affairs are involved. The yachting sector and our Freeport are also thriving thanks to competent and hardworking people involved in these sectors.
Yachting has grown to have recognised international stature in Malta not only because of the number of yachts flying the Maltese flag but also because of events such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race organised by the active Royal Malta Yacht Club and the expansion of berthing facilities, more yacht marinas, docking facilities as well as major Super Yacht berthing and repair facilities. Malta Freeport is recognised as a major maritime transhipment logistics centre in the Mediterranean region and is working towards becoming a leading logistical, warehousing and distribution hub. Malta's dry docks and ship repair facilities for conversions, new buildings, outfitting and hull treatment are well-renowned and the cruise liner terminal saw yet another record-breaking year in 2016. Aquaculture and fisheries are also growing with some Maltese companies making considerable investments in this area on a global scale including marine surveying and research and development initiatives.
Malta is incessantly striving for excellence in the quality of services provided and exploring ways of tapping into its marine and maritime resources to steadily continue to invest in the sector and achieve economic growth. Nevertheless, much consideration is increasingly being given to finding the right balance between reaping the economic potential of our seas with the need to safeguard their long-term health. Here, I am referring to blue growth – a strategy that Malta deems to be of importance as a source of economic growth, competitiveness, job creation and innovation, but also a strategy that offers sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors. Hence, Malta is committed to implementing its national Integrated Maritime Policy and continue to develop it, where and when necessary, to generate a sustainable maritime economy.
I consider the Integrated Maritime Policy as the tool that would potentially establish Malta as a leading nation in the Mediterranean sea-basin to uncover innovative ideas to promote sustainable practices and create opportunities for the private sector to invest in maritime technologies and expertise. In tandem with economic growth, we also need to develop more opportunities for training and education in maritime-related services. The University of Malta, MCAST, the Malta Council for Science & Technology and the UN International Maritime Law Institute (based in Malta) can all play key roles in this respect.
Dr Daniel Aquilina is the Chairman of the Malta Marittima Agency – the Maltese Government's Agency which aims to enhance cooperation between the maritime industry and Government stakeholders to continue developing the Maltese maritime industry. He also heads GANADO Advocates' Banking Ship Finance and Aviation teams, assisting leading international banks and financial institutions involved in the financing of Maltese registered vessels and aircraft by perfecting the registration of Mortgages and Security Interests.