Maritime industry warns of irremediable damage without government support

Shipping firms say they face total market wipe-out and will suffer further damage after the second quarter of 2020

The Malta Maritime Forum said it was determined to “make the government assume its responsibility” by participating in burden sharing.
The Malta Maritime Forum said it was determined to “make the government assume its responsibility” by participating in burden sharing.

Representatives of the local maritime industry have accused the government of disregarding it during the COVID-19 crisis, warning that this would have “deep and long-lasting effects” on the 11,500 people it employed.

“The Malta Maritime Forum notes with deep regret and concern that its prudent approach and sense of responsibility, particularly at this hour, were not appreciated, let alone reciprocated by government,” it said in a statement.

The maritime entities represented by the Forum which include such essential services as stevedoring, transhipment, pilotage, towage, ship repair and port services in general,  pointed out that other maritime nations had taken a different stand, with their respective governments not only applauding the industry, but also financially compensating it to assist in burden sharing.

The MMF said it had not “asked from the government the level of USD one billion that the South Korean government is providing to aid shipping, but a  fair burden sharing agreement so that, as responsible employers, these entities are not forced to carry the full burden on their own.” 

During a meeting with the Prime Minister on the 7th of April, the Forum had floated a proposal that would have seen the employers carrying 60%, government 30% and the employee 10% with  guaranteed employment continuations for all employees.  “It is regretful and most insensitive that after three weeks since our meeting, we have not had the decency of an acknowledgment, let alone a confirmation,” rued the organisation.

So far, the industry has been bearing the cost burden alone after Chinese ports were closed in January, it said. “The end result is the alarming state in which the local maritime industry finds itself  in today with entities having lost from a minimum of 40% to a 100% total market share wipe out.”

Shipping firms are expected to suffer even further damage after the second quarter of 2020. 

“How can one reach a level of understanding if there is not even a response to the plea that the Forum has made to the government?” asked the Forum, saying it had already proposed proactive measures.

“Other countries have already taken the lead in addressing how maritime services can be provided without prejudicing in any way the health considerations of the country.  The international organisations, such as the International Maritime Organisation and the European Union itself, have issued advice to governments to stand by their shipping industries and to allow maritime activities to be delivered with the necessary safeguards.  Malta decided otherwise and our offer for initiative, consultation and pro-action has met the same fate.”  

The Forum contrasted this approach with that of the UK. The UK Minister for transport, the Hon. Ms Kelly Tolhurst was quoted in the shipping paper Lloyds List  as saying: “So I want to pay tribute to all those in maritime who have gone out to work during this time of national crisis, from every employee to every seafarer. There will be more difficult months ahead.  But when we recover from this crisis, the whole nation will owe you a debt of gratitude for your outstanding service.” 

The Forum said it was determined to “make the government assume its responsibility” by participating in burden sharing.  

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