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European perspective on shipping to the fore at Malta Maritime Summit

Date: 19/10/2016

The inaugural Malta Maritime Summit began in Valletta on 4th October 2016, with a host of top industry names lauding the initiative to hold a major shipping conference in such an important maritime centre, especially on the eve of Malta assuming six-month presidency of the Council of the EU in January.

“Malta may be a small country but in the maritime world it’s a big player,” said IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim, alluding to both the island’s role throughout history as an important trading hub as well as its current status as one of the world’s largest flags as well as an important port and ship repair hub.

Maltese Transport minister Joe Mizzi had opened the summit by announcing that the Malta Ship Register would again be celebrating record tonnage on its books this year with more than 70m gt, making it the largest flag in the EU. Conference organiser John Gauci-Maistre of GM International pointed out that some 10% of the island’s workforce were in maritime-related jobs.

The opening panel discussion featured the Maritime ministers of both Greece and Cyprus, Theodoros Dritsas and Marios Demetriades, who outlined how they had met with Mizzi the previous day in the fourth tripartite meeting Greece, Cyprus and Malta on maritime affairs.

“As the three main maritime nations within the EU we should co-ordinate our actions and positions so we have greater impact within the EU and within the IMO,” explained Demetriades, adding that it had been decided the ad hoc meetings should now be formalised and take place at least once a year, he added.

Dritsas called the meeting “another big step to promote our common interests” and pledged that Greece would assist Malta on maritime affairs during its Council presidency. For Greece the “main priority” at Brussels is a “uniform legal background,” he added.

Earlier in a recorded video message EC Transport Commisioner Violetta Bulc said that everyone was counting on Malta’s “great, great maritime tradition” to inform its presidency, pointing out that it coincided with the start of what the EU has designated its Maritime Year in 2017. She also sent a message to the IMO, saying that “all eyes’ were on it in coming months to agree CO2 reduction limits since similar moves were afoot within the aviation industry.

Fotis Karamitsos, EC director for Mobility and Transport, continued the theme by claiming that the EU was actually the IMO’s “strongest ally” in helping push for global standards that would be applied by everybody.

But fellow panellists Peter Hinchliffe and Patrick Verhoeven, secretary generals of the International Chamber of Shipping and European Community Shipowners’ Association, begged to differ slightly, reiterating shipping’s belief in “global rules for a global industry” and lamenting what were sometimes “unnecessary” additional levels of regional regulation and a “confrontational” approach towards the IMO by European politicians.

Hinchliffe drew a spontaneous round of applause from the audience with his suggestion that Malta should use its six-month presidency to push for the ratification of all outstanding IMO regulations by IMO member states.

Verhoeven said that European shipowners were surprisingly enough seeking additional legislation from Brussels in the instance of creating a European ‘Single Window’ for shipping, in order to reduce what he called the current “bureaucratic nightmare” of different reporting practices.  

Source: SeaTrade

 
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