The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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Blue Growth Areas: Identified in the government’s proposals for consultation

Malta Independent Friday, 1 August 2014, 08:44 Last update: about 10 years ago

Aquaculture – The farming of finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants

This industry has shown great growth potential in the past and further exploitation may be possible by improving access to space and water, development of technical knowledge to promote the competitive advantage in relation to the potential health and environmental standards and reducing administrative burdens.

Aquaculture has developed in Malta with mixed results. It has provided jobs and economic gains, but has been often criticised for the environmental impact.

This sector is identified as one with potential growth that needs to be driven with environmental considerations.

The government-owned Malta Aquaculture Research Centre has been spearheading R&D for the past two decades. Malta is at the forefront of research in amberjack, which is considered to have excellent potential for aquaculture. The commercial feasibility of the centre, together with further studies on different finfish species as well as the potential of shellfish and aquatic plants will be studied further, with the aim of capitalising on expertise in order for Malta to differentiate itself from the mass production of other commonly found species. This will be within the context of the national strategy on aquaculture and fisheries.


Coastal tourism

Coastal tourism covers beach-based recreation and tourism (for example, swimming, surfing, sun bathing), non-beach related land-based tourism in the coastal area (all other tourism and recreation activities that take place in the coastal area for which the proximity of the sea is a condition), as well as the supplies and manufacturing industries associated to these activities. This area is being well managed by the Malta Tourism Association under the Ministry of Tourism.

Beaches remain a very important element for tourism in Malta. It is therefore important that beaches are protected, well managed and developments which may result in the depletion of beaches be carefully considered. The Maltese coast characterises the Island as a tourist destination. The concepts of integrated coastal management should be adopted in the formulation of the national integrated maritime strategy in order to conserve this asset which makes Malta so attractive to foreign visitors.

These should also be coupled with the upgrading, protection and proper management of coastal areas across the country. Coastal tourism is different in definition from Marine tourism that covers tourism that is largely water-based rather than land-based (for example, boating, yachting, cruising, nautical sports), and includes the operation of landside facilities, manufacturing of equipment, and services necessary for this segment of tourism.

The quality of Malta’s bathing waters has reached a level of excellence and it is vital for this to be maintained for Malta to continue to offer a positive bathing experience. Diving activities account for at least 5% of Malta’s tourism activity. Diving sites around Malta and Gozo are a priority. Protection of such sites both from an environmental and ecological perspective as well as the underwater heritage will increase the attractiveness of the Tourism product.


Marine biotechnology

Marine life has adapted to thrive in the extreme ambient conditions found in the sea. Blue biotechnology is concerned with the exploration and exploitation of the resulting diverse marine organisms in order to develop new products. This sector is in its infancy in Malta with very little research and innovation. From an EU perspective it is also in its infancy with only €9m of value.

However, funds are being made available for this sector to explore the sea biodiversity that would lead to the development of new pharmaceuticals or industrial enzymes that could withstand extreme conditions, and which consequently would have high economic value. In the long-term, it is expected that this sector will offer highly-skilled employment and significant downstream opportunities.


Ocean energy

This is another emerging sector focusing on renewables and carbon emission reductions. It includes both offshore wind and ocean energy.

This section contributes to the EU2020 Strategy offering both research funds for projects that may result in large investments and the creation of new high quality jobs. Development in Ocean Energy may lead to utilisation of shipbuilding, mechanical, electrical and maritime engineering skills and professions. Research initiatives in this area are already in hand such as the wave farm that is being proposed in the North-West of Gozo. More can be done by working closely with the Malta Council for Science and Technology as well as the higher educational institutions: The University of Malta and MCAST.


Seabed mining

Seabed mining is concerned with marine non-energy materials. Currently there is no activity in this area in Malta and any information rests with the Continental Shelf Department within the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.




Besides these five blue growth sectors identified by the EU there are other sectors in the blue economy crucial for value, jobs and potential growth.


Maritime transport

Maritime transport deals with both cargo and passenger transport. Maritime transport has been a catalyst of economic development and prosperity throughout our history. It ensures the security of supply of energy, food and commodities and is the main vehicle for imports and exports. This is further accentuated by our Freeport operations that offer one of the main container trans-shipment hubs in the Mediterranean. Today the Freeport Terminals are handling close to 3.0 million TEUs and is reaching riskily close to full capacity. Development of the Freeport as well as their effective management will increase value and jobs. Enabling the Freeport Corporation to expand operations beyond its current scope and footprint is under consideration. Considerations that will also review the alternatives to the current operations with a view to increase competitiveness.

Transhipment of petroleum products is undoubtedly another economic activity deserving recognition and promotion. Petroleum product transhipment takes place at different berths in the port of Marsaxlokk. The jetties can handle vessels with a deadweight of 2,500 to approximately 100,000 tonnes.

The strategic position of Malta has historically played a vital role in attracting international traders to make use of the storage and handling facilities situated in Malta, including Oil tanking. In simpler terms, various international traders benefit from using Malta as their transhipment hub to supply their customers with a variety of petroleum products, particularly customers located in the North Africa and the Middle East. We can confidently state that over the years Malta has established a good reputation in the international market as a reliable and efficient partner.

Undeniably, the bunkering business is another economic activity that has experienced remarkable growth and all indicators lead us to sustain that there is room for further growth. Bunkers operations are mostly affected onboard the vessel via a bunker barge, which is a relatively small ship supplying fuel or other types of oils to relatively bigger barges.

Local suppliers have over the years maintained business relationships with various European bunkering brokers operating in the Mediterranean and supply all sorts of vessels including cruise liners, tankers and so on. Bunkering operations take place both in port and outside port.

Over the years the Maltese authorities have established a number of designated bunkering zones to accommodate and create the conditions necessary for this business activity to flourish. It is imperative to note that bunkering procedures should ensure that the risks associated with the operations have been assessed and that necessary controls are in place to mitigate the risks associated with oil spills. An integrated maritime policy demands that preventive measures are adequately adopted to prevent polluting the environment.


Maritime Financial Services

Although essentially part of the Maritime Transport section, it is being dealt separately in view that Malta is the largest shipping flag in Europe. Vessel registration under the Malta flag and the operation of ships is regulated by the Merchant Shipping Act (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta). Ship registration in Malta has proved to be successful over the years. While addressing any weaknesses that may have developed over the years, there is room for further development in maritime financial services.

The strengthening of our maritime legal structures will also provide higher visibility internationally, leading to stronger jurisdiction and sector growth. Re-establishing the Maritime Court, as well as rising to international standards, the Malta Arbitration Centre, coupled with further consolidation of a flexible and sustainable maritime administration limiting red tape and administrative burdens on the industry, will attract major foreign ship management companies to establish base and conduct business.


Ship building and repair

There are two classifications in the sector: shipbuilding and recreational craft. The latter are those vessels below 24m hulls. Shipbuilding (including ship repair and conversion) is intended for merchant/commercial purposes, but also military vessels. It also addresses products and services supplied for the building, conversion and maintenance of these ships.

The sector relating to recreational craft is addressed under Marine tourism.

Shipbuilding has seen a major decline in Malta. Notwithstanding, the industry should not be abandoned since niche opportunities exist in the field of gas conversion, satellite navigation systems and ICT, all of which are supported in the Blue Economy.

E-Maritime is an EU initiative that aims to foster the use of advanced information technologies for working and doing business in the maritime transport sector. There is also an enterprising private segment that has managed to survive competition in the ship repair industry as well as a number of assets that may offer opportunities. Government has issued an expression of interest to exploit the Marsa Shipbuilding potential. Opportunities to shift to higher added value work, including LNG conversions of vessels, are starting to emerge with the EU funding a number of projects both in conversion as well as infrastructure.



Compared to the overall economy, Fisheries accounts for a small figure, €8m, and provides 800 jobs. Yet fisheries have to be seen in a social dimension in particular areas, where the livelihood and well-being of a village depends on fishing. Much depends on efforts to increase the attractiveness for employment as well as retain fish stocks at sustainable levels. This is a major challenge since sustainability of Mediterranean fishing is compromised with the result that catches in the Mediterranean are considerably lower than those in the Atlantic. Introduction of fish management plans, with the participation of local fishing communities as well as extension of our fishing zones for improved controls over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, will contribute towards sustainability. This can be done in line with the EC Reg. 2371/2002 on the Common Fisheries Policy and in the framework of the adoption of EU action plan for the Mediterranean. It also increases the need to improve our management in fisheries and study ways to add value to the fishing process. The new fish market in Marsa needs to be leveraged as an opportunity for further processing of fish brought to the market.


Oil and Gas industry

There is a need to increase efforts on oil and gas exploration. The promotion of acreage offshore Malta for oil and gas exploration either through bid rounds or through a professional presentation to oil companies is necessary. It is also essential to monitor the contractual obligations of existing licensed operators to facilitate exploration efforts offshore Malta. Related to this sector, Malta also needs to enact regulations under national legislation to take care of the provisions of the Offshore Protocol of the Barcelona Convention, as well as transposing the EU Directive on Safety of oil and gas prospection, exploration and production activities.

The collection and conversion of data from oil exploration activities into digital format and the subsequent development of a database of existing geophysical and geological data is a key element in monitoring and promotion of oil exploration. It is also important to increase value in vintage seismic data through reprocessing to facilitate evaluation of acreage by oil companies.

Related exploration and exploitation there is the servicing industry for Oil and Gas. The increase in activity across the Mediterranean has opened an opportunity where Malta is well positioned to take advantage of the support services. Local private initiatives are already successfully established in Malta. This opportunity can revitalize our ship repair and steel construction expertise if extended to service the oil and gas sectors.

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