The Malta Shortsea Promotion Centre as a maritime cluster is open to all professionals bringing together all sectors of the maritime/logistics industry. From manufacturing to services, the cluster consists of companies of all sizes, clusters, federations and associations, research centres, schools and training organisations, local authorities and private actors.
The promotion carried out by the MSPC is based on a business plan and focuses on those activities that have their point of departure or their destination in Malta. This includes both port-to-port and door-to-door cargo movements including loading and unloading activities, as well as sea-air traffic.
The promotion centre has a neutral and non-commercial status, is officially registered as an NGO and acts as a go-between to bring concerned parties around the discussion table. By consistently positioning itself in this way and through its extensive networking, the promotion centre becomes the information centre for questions concerning intermodal, door/door, logistics and maritime transports.
Within a European context, the rather strict notion of ’modal shift’ has meanwhile evolved towards the concept of co-modality, introduced by the European Commission. Within this new perspective, the merits of each transport mode are assessed and interrelated so that a logistic chain is composed. The MSPC aims to position itself so that it can assist on all elements of this chain.
By forming part of the European Shortsea Network, the MSPC is already well placed on the European platform, which embraces all the EU countries which have shortsea promotion centres and who therefore share uniform objectives and assist one another to achieve their goals.
It is the mission of the ESN to stimulate shortsea shipping and to develop activities around shortsea shipping. Bottlenecks are tackled and networking is intensified.
The exchange of ‘best practices’ between the promotion centres is an important issue. In addition, the ESN has amassed a large amount of experience which can be called upon.
On a national level the role of the MSPC as a maritime cluster is multifaceted and is principally to promote and assist the development of Maltese shipping and logistics services and industry specialist training, and to liaise with, support and market the maritime and logistics services sector.
In addition to this though, the centre has a role in advising on development and co-ordination of related policy particularly by advising the authorities on the development and co-ordination of policy in the shipping and shipping services sector so as to protect and create employment. It also has a marketing role in promoting and assisting the development of Maltese shipping, shipping services and seafarer training, and to support and market the logistics, multi-modal chain and shipping services sectors.
The targeted membership of the centre has very few limits as it aims to encompass all players that influence or are influenced by logistics in general and maritime activity in particular.
Clearly the footprint is quite substantial but still manageable due to the limited size of our island nation. Such a coverage brings to one table a point of reference for consultation, advise and feedback to administrators, media and the general public.
Having a clear mission and role does not mean specific activities are defined. However, the specific support provided by the MSPC and principal focus should and will be to identify itself as a forum in the transport chain through issuing reports and studies for decision makers, identification of bottlenecks in the field of logistics and giving effective feedback on their solution and promoting co-operation leading to improved efficiency of intermodal transport. The latter is done by focusing on reliability, through planned adjustment of modal connections, and innovation, via faster services, simplified procedures, quality commitment and better ways to transport.
The centre will also continue to exert its influence at the international level and networking through its position as part of the European Shortsea Network. These efforts will continue to strengthen the MSPC’s role as an integral part of the logistic process.
For the mid-term, the target is to find a consistent source of funding particularly through targeted member fees enabling the centre to provide project consultation for its same members. The specifics of such activity should be based on consulting for forwarders and logistic providers free of charge or at nominal cost levels on the principles of acting as a neutral entity in all projects and treating each project confidentially.
The range of projects can vary as there are several areas where players in this industry would like to be more involved. Such projects can include research on a particular niche, creating relevant maritime/logistics directories, the creation of a complex supply chain covering multi-modal options or filling knowledge and training gaps.
The centre can also assist in drawing up alternatives for various transport modes, creating employment needs in the sector and planning networking activities and opportunities. All these activities are the ingredients of a fully-fledged maritime cluster involved in different strata of the industry.
The EU aims to promote the intermodality and interoperability of transport (co-modality), but also aims at a seamless relationship between the industry, the environment and all the entities and countries involved.
SPC Malta follows the EU’s definition of intermodality and also includes the variety of players in this sector making it a valid point of reference both to the public and the private sector.
Promotion and awareness needs to be emphasised not only for cargo from door to door but also regarding the main sectors being influenced, including the environment.
Therefore, having a planned activity makes the wider picture more understandable and attainable. These developments have to be seen within the context of maritime spatial planning being promoted by the EU Commission which adopts a holistic view of the maritime industry, including the environment, energy and fisheries which all necessitate their own “maritime space”.
Malta has to follow in this direction particularly today where it is becoming evident that any kind of development in Malta, not necessarily maritime, has an impact on our environment, and quality of life.
Such an approach however entails continuous consultation with all stakeholders as well as with neighbouring countries, because the maritime footprint extends beyond the purely local and what happens in our neighbouring countries affects us in Malta as well.
The MSPC is positioning itself to be a catalyst in this development by attracting more participants to join in the momentum so that whenever policy is laid down it reflects and balances the needs and wants of the various sectors. Other EU countries, such as Greece, have taken advantage of their turn of presidency to lay down clear directions, as for example in the Athens
Declaration on the importance of short sea shipping.
Silvan Fleri is the deputy general manager at Combined Maritime Services.
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