THE port of Batumi, Georgia’s maritime center, hosted the Georgia International Maritime Forum (GIMF) this week under the patronage of Prime Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili. The principal aim of the event was to raise awareness of the indispensability of shipping and the critical need to ensure healthy oceans, which could be achieved through a carefully devised and executed maritime transport policy.
The launch of the GIMF 2016 inaugurated an event to be convened biennially in this Black Sea country, as one initiative of the Georgian Government for the promotion of excellence in shipping worldwide through high-level discussions by regulators and industry players. At GIMF 2016, Georgia highlights its economic and business inputs by showcasing the reforms it undertook in developing its maritime industry. At the same time, it invites ship owners and investors to partake of the opportunities offered by the country in vessel management, crewing, shipping and logistics. Almost all Georgian speakers, both from government and industry, spoke about doing business in an environment free from bureaucratic processes, red tape and corruption. It is an event that promotes Georgia as a friendly jurisdiction for ship owners and maritime stakeholders.
What is impressive in the Georgian event is the active participation of agencies such as the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Finance, all of which play key roles in advancing the country’s maritime industry. Underpinning the Georgian initiative to stimulate the maritime industry is an integrated national maritime policy that brings together the various sectors, e.g. manning and crewing, shipping operations and ship management, and port operations, to name a few, towards a cohesive and harmonized direction.
Parallel Philippine initiative
I am reminded of President Duterte’s program of improving the ease of “doing business” in the Philippines. The translation of this Presidential call into government action is eagerly anticipated by the Philippine maritime industry. Indeed, the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) started off with activities that will follow through the commitment made by the President to adopt a national maritime agenda once elected.
While we are still at the stage of advocating for mainstreaming the maritime industry into national policy in which Government takes its logical role as a dynamic tool in achieving socio-economic growth, other countries gain headway in optimizing the benefits derived from the industry. This is our way of promoting “blue growth” in the Philippine setting, in which the maritime industry takes its rightful place as both a bountiful resource and a key contributor to national and world economy.
Compared to the Philippines, Georgia’s maritime industry is quite young for a country that gained independence only twenty-five years ago. Yet Georgia is already aggressively marketing the results of the legal, policy and institutional reforms it has undertaken. One can sense the national pride as they spoke of providing the platform for linking Asia with the European continent through the Black Sea. Georgia is bent on developing a cruise industry in the Black Sea.
We have heard of a similar plan in the Philippines, not in the Black Sea, but in the wider ASEAN waters and in the oceans of the world. “Maritime Philippines – moving the world” was a country brand forgotten as soon as it was launched. Communicating the message and objective of the tag was never explained, most important, the programs to support its realization were never put in place.
Sadly, development of the maritime industry and its supporting infrastructure seems to be the last thing on everybody’s minds as regulatory bodies seem barely able to cope with day-to-day operations. How the Philippines is missing out on its biggest resource – one that literally surrounds the entire country!