A concerted effort is required to safeguard legitimate activity with the maritime industry

Last Updated on Friday, 29 January, 2021 at 11:40 am by Andre Camilleri

The Malta Maritime Forum insists that the departure of two oil-rigs from Malta has nothing to do with the positive initiative on the part of the Authorities to clear up the Grand Harbour from wrecks and abandoned vessels.

Since the turn of the year, the Malta Maritime Forum has followed closely the issue pertaining to the oil-rigs legitimately berthed at a local shipyard and the unfounded reports made to the Office of the Ombudsman besides those carried in some quarters of the media.

After delving into the matter and discussing it with the pertinent authorities, the Forum noted a statement made by the Transport Minister during a conference held last Wednesday.  The Forum was, in fact, encouraged by Minister Ian Borg’s statement that, Government is aware of the potential and reputation that Malta has in the maritime sector and is committed to maintain this standard as well as improve it. 

What is of grave concern to the Forum is that in his intervention, the Minister seemed to mention the said oil-rigs whilst making reference to an ongoing initiative by the Authorities to clear up the Grand Harbour from wrecks and abandoned vessels.  The Forum is in full support of such initiatives in the interest of navigation safety, marine life, the general upkeep of the port surroundings as well as for the freeing up of precious space to make way for new economic potential.  Nevertheless, the berthing of the oil-rigs in question cannot, by no stretch of the imagination, be compared to the abandonment of derelict vessels and pieces of scrap metal of the kind that merit the attention of this “clean-up” initiative.  The Authorities are incorrect to confuse Abandoned Ships with Laid Up Ships.

The oil-rigs in question are not abandoned and seaworthy vessels.  They are located legitimately within the confines of a private concession in full adherence to the conditions of emphyteutical agreement granted to the shipyard.  Their lay up in Malta had been delayed due to depressed market conditions in the oil and gas industry which situation was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any complaints levelled at this legitimate economic activity as reported to the Ombudsman and the media are therefore both unjust and unfounded, so much so that the Forum would have expected the pertinent authorities to neutralise it in a timely manner in the interest of the Malta’s maritime industry.    The Forum expect the Authorities to defend legitimate maritime activity at all times including at this juncture wherein the industry is facing an unfair onslaught by a minority of people posing to form part of NGOs and purporting to represent the people from the south and the Cottonera community. 

The Malta Maritime Forum is equally an NGO and speaks on behalf of all stakeholders in the local Maritime Industry.  Part of its mission is also to put records straight in the face of falsehoods spread by unscrupulous people.  The Forum’s Mission is to safeguard investors, both local and foreign, that generate legitimate business activity and specialised jobs for over 20,000 people, most of whom hail from the South of Malta and the Inner Harbour Areas.

Regretfully, the manner in which Government has mis-handled this situation is also detrimental to Malta’s attractiveness as a worthy domicile for foreign investment given that, time and again, the business operators at the centre of such baseless criticism are foreign owned.  Consequently, Malta’s reputation as a place to invest and do business will continue to be severely damaged.

The Forum calls for a concerted effort on the part of all major stakeholders to safeguard legitimate economic activity taking place with the Maritime Industry for this industry to continue to build on its long successful legacy and attract the right investment and generate specialised employment opportunities to enable it to contribute to Malta’s strong economic emergence in a new, post-Covid scenario.

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