WITH THE 'blue economy' - earnings generated from sea-related activities - of critical importance to the region, Dr Omar Davies, Jamaica's transport, works and housing minister has said the onus is on regional leaders to preserve, protect and make the sea safe for business.
Delivering the keynote address at last week's Regional Maritime High Level Symposium of Ministers of Transport, Davies noted that, through the efforts of CARICOM, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Environment Programme and the Caribbean MOU Port State Control regime, the region has taken some major steps to protect itself from the risks associated with shipping.
"The livelihood of a significant number of our people depends on this so-called 'blue economy'," Davies said. "This includes cruise tourism and the inter-island transportation of passengers and goods by sea; and exploited and potential oil and gas reserves."
"When one adds the fact that the Caribbean region is the world's premier cruise-ship destination, that about 33 per cent of world crude oil passes through the region, and with other commodities, 30 per cent of world maritime trade transits our region, we owe it to our people to preserve and protect it, but also to make it safe," added Davies.
need for regulations
In speaking to the risk of pollution associated with the carriage of large volumes of oil and other noxious substances, the transport minister said because of its economic importance, there is a strong need for regulations to safeguard the region's waterway.
"Our economies are so linked to the maritime domain that we should have in place comprehensive strategies, legislation and practices to provide for the sustainable utilisation of the seas as a transportation corridor, for exploitation and the extraction of resources, in a carefully managed way," stated Davies.
In noting that challenges have been experienced in the development of sufficient mechanisms to enforce safe operating and environmental standards for cargo and cruise vessels that regularly call at our ports, Davies said the situation has been compounded by the acute shortage of trained and qualified ship surveyors.
Secretary general of the IMO, Koji Sekimizu, who was in attendance at the symposium, said the event gives fresh impetus to the steps being taken to establish and upgrade the legislative and institutional systems necessary for the states of the Caribbean to effectively discharge their responsibilities as flag, port and coastal states.
"It goes without saying that you have my full support, and that of the wider membership of IMO, in pursuing these commendable objectives and ideals."