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Collaborative Maritime Framework Set to Transform Pacific Island Maritime Sector

Nadi, Fiji (Tuesday 23 April 2024) – Despite being surrounded by vast oceans, Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) encounter significant challenges in their maritime transport sector. Maritime safety is crucial in the Pacific, where remote islands rely heavily on it for essential services. Over half of the region's population depends exclusively on maritime transport.

Responding to a request from Pacific Transport ministers, the Pacific Community (SPC) has convened a meeting with Heads of Maritime from 15 PICTs in Nadi this week. This gathering of SPC Heads of Maritime Meeting aims to co-develop the Pacific Regional One Maritime Framework (POMF), enhancing the resilience and safety of maritime operations across the region.

The challenges are severe, including ageing vessels, extreme cargo imbalances, and routes that are economically essential yet commercially unviable. Compounding these issues, the Pacific has the world's highest per capita fatality rate from maritime incidents, driven by overcrowding and inadequate safety equipment.

The POMF is a strategic initiative set to revolutionise maritime safety and efficiency, focusing on enhancing security, promoting decarbonisation, and improving service affordability and accessibility for isolated communities.

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In February this year, the European Union (EU) and SPC signed a funding agreement to support the development and implementation of this framework, facilitating the mobilisation of financial, technological, and infrastructural resources.

Safe and reliable transportation is essential for reducing inequality and social exclusion, particularly benefiting women and girls by improving access to educational, professional, and public opportunities. Given the ocean's prominence in the Blue Pacific continent, secure maritime transport is vital for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Secretary Operations at Fiji's Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services, and Transport, Mr. George Tavo, expressed gratitude for the support that has been instrumental in advancing maritime initiatives critical to regional development.

"Sea transport is the lifeline for our communities, facilitating the movement of people, goods, and resources across the Pacific," said Mr Tavo. "This meeting underscores our collective commitment to addressing the maritime sector's challenges."

Additionally, the EU reiterated its support for the Pacific region. The Programme Manager for Climate Change, Mitigation and Energy at the EU Delegation for the Pacific highlighted the focus on maritime security, decarbonisation, and ocean governance.

"We have various projects aimed at supporting PICTs in these areas, including the recent agreement with SPC to develop a new maritime framework aligned with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific," she said.

The Director of the SPC Geoscience, Energy and Maritime (GEM) Division, Ms Rhonda Robinson, outlined the comprehensive nature of the POMF.

"This framework not only strategises sustainable maritime development but also aligns with our broader vision for a resilient Blue Pacific, guiding our efforts to meet the diverse needs of our maritime sector," she said.

In line with the Efate Outcome Statement from the Fifth Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers' Meeting, there is a reinforced commitment to fostering genuine and inclusive partnerships to accelerate decarbonisation of the energy and maritime transport sectors. This initiative reflects a regional collaboration that not only anticipates the adaptation challenges but actively seeks sustainable and inclusive solutions.

The work to develop and implement the POMF will be implemented in a partnership-based manner with consultations regionally and nationally. SPC will be co-implementing this work with partners from the region, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF).

The second SPC Heads of Maritime Meeting and first POMPF steering committee meeting finishes on Friday 26 April, 2024.

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