‘Smart shipping’ key for EAC blue economy sustainability

12Dec 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
Financial Times
‘Smart shipping’ key for EAC blue economy sustainability

DUE  to the fact that ports all over the world are increasing their efforts to become smart ports, the Tanzanian government and port stakeholders must keep investing in infrastructure development-

President Kenyatta speaks at the blue economy conference in Nairobi last month. File photo

By Focus Mauki, FT Correspondent

port stakeholders must keep investing in infrastructure development and  implementing friendly maritime policies plus latest technology to enable full automation of port operations towards ‘blue economy’ sustainability.

Recognition of the blue economy concept in developing economies has meant that countries are now strategising on how to increase port capacity and efficiency ahead of their competitors. The blue economy creates job opportunities in different areas such as shipping, insurance, seafaring, port operations, financial services, vessel registration, ship building and repairs shore based auxiliary support.

Port efficiency and connectivity can unlock or undermine the economic potential of a country. Today, ports are enhancing efficiency with the overall goal of transforming into transhipment hubs, which raise port earnings, attract frequent feeder services, create opportunities for coastal shipping, and generate cost savings from economies of scale.

The fact that ports are important water-land interfaces in the logistics chain means they also become important points for other maritime activities contributing to the blue economy opportunities, such as fishing, oil drilling, cruise vessels, coastal shipping, passenger ferries, international shipping, mining of marine minerals and other offshore economic activities.

So given its strategic positioning in East Africa regional maritime trade and its plans to develop various port projects so as to maximize both local and global blue economy opportunities, it is very important for Tanzania to fully utilize all potentials available under the blue economy.

According to the World Bank, blue economy means the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs”. It requires smart partnership among East Africa Community countries so as to harvest its benefits.

This is the reason why Kenya recently coordinated the first ever high-level conference on the Global Sustainable Blue Economy, carrying the theme: ‘The blue economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

Over 4,000 delegates across the world came together in Nairobi from November 26 to 28 to learn how to build a blue economy that harnesses the potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers to improve the lives of all, particularly people in developing states, women, youth and indigenous people, while also leveraging the latest innovations, scientific advances and best practices to build prosperity while conserving world waters for future generations.

Addressing participants, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said: “My government aims at providing a global forum for contributing to and advancing global conversation on the two important pillars of the blue economy. These are sustainability, climate change and controlling pollution on one hand and production, accelerated economic growth, jobs and poverty alleviation on the other.”

He added that the blue economy presents the smart alternatives that can supplement the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG14) on how oceans, seas, lakes and even rivers can accelerate collective quest for sustainable economic growth.

The SDG14 highlights the role of seaborne trade as an engine for inclusive and sustainable growth and development so as to support globalized production and distribution of goods which requires effective logistics proper management of logistics chain.

Speaking during an interview with Inter Press Service (IPS), the United Nations secretary general’s special envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, said: “In the case of the Nairobi conference, it’s not just the ocean, its lakes and rivers as well. It’s about SDG14’s goal to conserve but also to sustainably use the ocean’s resources. It’s about that balance.”

The director for women, gender and development at the African Union Commission (AU), Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, explained that the AU is committed to ensuring women are more involved in marine industries across Africa, and currently works with women’s networks in this field, including among others Women in Maritime Africa, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, and Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The blue economy concept covers many activities including maritime transport, which is the most preferable choice of transportation. World Bank statistics show that over 80% of international goods traded are transported by sea – a share even higher for most developing countries including Tanzania - and the volume of seaborne trade is expected to double by 2030 and quadruple by 2050.

A 2017 World Bank report also discloses that globally, shipping provides the principal mode of transport for the supply of raw materials, consumer goods, essential foodstuffs, and energy. It is thus a prime facilitator of global trade and contributor to economic growth and employment, both at sea and ashore.

The fact that maritime transport is the cheapest mode for bulk transportation, and globally transports over 90 per cent of all items and makes up to 70 per cent of total global sales revenue Tanzania should not lag behind in exploring and maximizing this opportunity.

The entire transport supply chain is an area of so many opportunities, but let’s not forget that opportunities do not come without challenges. One of the challenges is the low shipping connectivity which sometimes undermines access to global markets.

The fact is that few, less reliable, direct port calls requires efficiency and capacity improvement to attract more shipping traffic. Other key challenges include crime, piracy, terrorism, illicit trade, marine pollution, human trafficking, cybercrime disruptions, climate change impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, inadequate capacity of resources such as human, financial and technological.

In order for a country to increase and expand its participation and maximize potentials of a blue economy they must improve their regulatory framework, port infrastructures and tap on the benefits of using electronic services.

The concept of the blue economy goes beyond viewing sea and lake business only as a platform for economic growth, but rather a smart way of strategizing on how to improve East African regional socio-economic life.

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