18 July 2001

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Safer shipping and clean seas

Transport and telecommunications minister Censu Galea argues that safer shipping and cleaner seas is a “culture” he was speaking at a convention held in Malta on Mediterranean Memorandum on port static control at the Radisson

By Censu Galea

This year marks the fourth anniversary from the signing of the Mediterranean Memorandum, an event that Malta proudly hosted in 1997, the culmination of the work that had started a few years earlier and which followed two preparatory meetings hosted by the Tunisian and Moroccan Administrations.
In 1997, the then Minister responsible for shipping had extended to the participants of the third preparatory meeting held in Malta that ended in the signing of the Memorandum, the same welcome that I greet you with today.
This is no coincidence. It is not a welcome coming solely from the heart of a nation known for its hospitality, a warmth so typical of the Mediterranean people. Our welcome comes from the conviction of successive Maltese administrations, and the whole of the Maltese shipping community, in the vital need for safer shipping and cleaner oceans and in the importance of international cooperation to achieve that objective.
We share the conviction of all the maritime administrations of the Mediterranean that the people of our region, the cradle of civilization, the region that gave law and order to the turbulent waters that were the early days of the maritime industry, must work together.
Many were those, and many still are, not convinced that the Mediterranean people can set differences aside and together work for the protection of life at sea, for the protection of our seas as the common heritage of mankind. Some are not even convinced that we have the will and the capability to work for and achieve these objectives. Yet, looking back over these last few years since the idea came to mind to set up this Memorandum, reviewing the work that has been undertaken and measuring the progress that has been achieved, they are all clear proof of the resolve to continue steaming ahead, to set differences aside and address together common issues in a professional and mature manner.
The journey that we have gone through has been arduous and the seas ahead of us are stormy. For every mile that we have sailed through we face an even longer and more perilous journey. But isn’t this what our ancestors had to face? Isn’t this the same way that our colleagues felt when they were striving hard to set going their various initiatives to the benefit of the Mediterranean region such as the creation of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea, an extremely important and successful venture, a principle now enshrined in the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation?
The objective of the venture that we have embarked upon is even wider than ever: the eradication of substandard shipping, the scourge of the maritime industry, a threat to healthy competition, a threat to the marine environment, a threat to seafarers, a threat to safety of life at sea. Ours is by no means a unique initiative. But, considering the importance of the Mediterranean region which handles approximately a third of the world’s maritime traffic, that owns and operates the greater part of the world shipping fleet, that gives the right to about one third of the world tonnage to fly its flags, we cannot shirk from our responsibilities.
First and foremost the Maritime administrations of the Mediterranean region must ensure that they have the necessary legal infrastructure and organisational capacity to meet their responsibilities emanating from the role their countries have as flag States, as port States and as coastal States. Working in parallel and together, in a commitment towards international and regional operation, we must then ensure harmonization of resources and procedures. We need to adopt a single purpose but yet a multi tasking approach.
We need to look and develop within but yet be conscious of each other’s problems and work for a common development. We need to be self confident but not afraid to seek help. We need to seek assistance but commit ourselves to help ourselves.
This Memorandum has progressed no doubt but I fear that we have not achieved much more because while we have expected assistance from outside we have not adopted and practiced the principle of self help as much as we should have. If we seek to reap the benefits of our strategic location, a gateway to the major world maritime routes, we need to be ready to invest in our own development. There already exists within our administrations a wealth of technical know how and experience which we need to develop further and share in order to ensure a sustained development. Only then can we assume an effective role of ensuring implementation of the international standards aimed at safer seas and cleaner oceans.
Distinguished delegates
Your presence here today is clearly a very positive indication and one which augurs well for the future. Admittedly the response is not yet a total one. Following the work of the committee meetings hosted by the administrations of Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus you, we, might have expected an even wider attendance. We have to understand, however, that some administrations might be facing problems that are not that easy to surmount. I have no doubt that they also share our convictions and that only circumstances which cannot be avoided have prevented them from being represented at this meeting. We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged.
We cannot afford to. Also, we know from past and current experience that they believe in this venture. On the other hand the presence here of administrations, either as participants or observers, that were not with us in Malta four years ago should encourage us in the pursue of our dream that one day this Memorandum would evolve into a regime that would cover the whole Mediterranean region.
However, before we pursue our dreams of expansion we need to tackle the issues at hand. We need our administrations to grow in stature, to develop our human resource, to expand our capabilities.
All this is within our capability. Help from outside has been forthcoming. Both the International Maritime Organisation and the European Commission have extended both technical and also financial assistance.
The hard working Secretariat of this Memorandum are leaving no stone unturned to make this Memorandum go forward. And the maritime administrations of the region are no doubt working hard as well. But there is the need for more. If we require the help of others we must show more commitment and we must first seek help from within.
The Maltese Government, firm in the belief that our goals are not only achievable but that we are on a true course for success, even if the speed is not yet full ahead, shall continue to support this initiative. This same support is no doubt also forthcoming from your Governments.
Safer shipping and cleaner oceans is a culture. The Mediterranean region, the cradle of civilization, the Mediterranean region which is synonymous with the maritime industry will no doubt live up to its traditions. Your presence and participation augurs well for the future.
I wish you success in your work and deliberations. Thank you.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
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