As an island in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, maritime activity has always played a crucial role in Malta’s development. Throughout history, as Maltese, we have interacted with seafarers providing services that have shaped our country’s hospitality culture – and over the past 30 years the islands have come a long way in the development of their maritime industry through various strategic and infrastructural investments.
According to a study commissioned by the Malta Maritime Forum and carried out by E-Cubed Consultants, the maritime community collectively generates €855 million in direct economic activity which amounts to almost €2.2 billion if we takes into account indirect and induced effects.
In addition, the industry provides almost 12,000 direct jobs, this figure rising to more than 20,000 people if indirect and induced effects are taken into account. The same study highlighted similar economic multiplier effects generated in the finance and insurance sectors. The maritime industry also contributes around 25 million euros to the state coffers. It should be noted that the average added value/employee generated in the maritime industry is 53% higher than the national average. This economic indicator is growing faster in the maritime industry (12%), compared to the average growth rate of the economy in general (10%).
Indeed, the Norwegian Institute of Maritime Innovation has predicted that by 2030, the global maritime industry will double its contribution to GDP. At the same time, the maritime industry around the world faces heavy responsibilities and challenges brought about by global efforts to address climate change and reduce harmful carbon emissions.
Like all other businesses, maritime operators are expected to embrace and manage the so-called “twin transitions” of digitalization and green economy
Like all other businesses, shipping operators are therefore expected to embrace and manage the so-called “twin transitions” of digitalization and green economy. The challenges and regulatory requirements arising from strategies to combat climate change are extremely important and the maritime industry must strengthen its capacities and know-how to enable it to cope with the transformations. I think the transitions are indeed linked because there can be very little decarbonization without digitalization.
These new developments and challenges therefore present the country with new opportunities which it must seize with both hands to ensure a steady growth of the maritime industry and a continued economic contribution to Malta.
In my view, Malta is in an excellent position to turn some of these challenges into significant opportunities. I also believe that the Malta Maritime Forum set up in 2015 is well placed to spearhead innovation in the local maritime industry and take it to new heights with the support of technology. Government must create the enabling environment for this to happen, but the private sector must provide the necessary traction for growth.
The Malta Maritime Forum platform is centrally placed to support the necessary developments within the industry. It can do this by developing an innovation hub and linking with European and global networks with similar innovation-driven aspirations. At the same time, the MMF should exploit funding opportunities dedicated to capacity building methodologies for development. With these fundamentals in place, the MMF could spark, lead and develop a culture of innovation in the maritime industry cluster.
Capacity Building is a development methodology accepted by UNDP and originally developed by Ghent University. It consists of four pillars which, when brought together, can elevate the maritime industry to a higher level of performance.
The first axis is policy and legislation. The second axis is institutional development. The third axis is the development of human resources, and the fourth axis is outreach and community engagement.
The maritime industry cannot develop without a dynamic of innovation. The sole responsibility of the cluster will be to drive this by first mapping the sector as a very complex ecosystem. For this to succeed, the industry must be smart and nimble, and must also commit the resources to navigate the desired journey. This is in line with the second smart specialization strategy that the government recently released. I am convinced that a collaboration between the Malta Maritime Forum and the Malta Innovation Forum could create synergies.
In this regard, the recent appointment of the CEO of MMF to sit on a thematic committee on marine and maritime technologies is a positive step in the right direction. This thematic committee is responsible for advising the government on investments in new technologies in the maritime sector within the framework of the Smart Specialization Research and Innovation Strategy 2021-2027 for Malta.
The journey ahead is not easy and navigating the future will not be easy. However, I believe that if we come together and commit, there is no reason for us not to succeed.
Jonathan Borg is a maritime specialist and an active member of the Malta Maritime Forum. The opinions expressed in this article are those of Jonathan Borg in his final capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the MMF.
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