Keynote address - Pacific Regional Maritime Transport Officials’ Meeting
By SPC's Director of Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division, Ms. Rhonda Robinson
15-18th November 2022
Ni sa bula vinaka and good morning,
It gives me great pleasure and honour to be here today to provide the keynote address as Director of the Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division here at the Pacific Community (SPC).
Our shipping sector here in the Pacific is a lifeline for our communities and economies.
We are ninety-eight per cent ocean and two per cent land and during COVID19 as the rest of the world benefited from reduced fuel costs in the transport sector, the Pacific lost out due to the distance and limited shipping routes available.
Today, as global tensions and the war in Ukraine impact on fuel prices, the increased cost of fuel has further tightened its grip on our vulnerable region.
It is clear we are at a critical juncture, and we have an opportunity to rapidly scale innovative and practical solutions to ensure a sustainable maritime sector, and to the people of our Pacific.
As you know, ships carry over 90% of world trade, providing the most economic means of transport.
Our region however has special circumstances and unique challenges when it comes to sustainable and resilient development. We often talk about our remote location and high vulnerability that we face regularly here in the region.
This means that we have the highest shipping costs and the longest and thinnest shipping routes per capita in the world.
Furthermore and in addition to an already heavily regulated international industry the Pacific has some of the greatest challenges including human resourcing, scale and distance which reduces our capacity to mainstream domestication and implementation of many of these importance regulatory instruments.
So what does this mean when we think about this in the Pacific context. We have more than 2,000 ships registered and operating. Many of these are at or near the end of their operating life and may no longer be fit for purpose due to various reasons.
We have witnessed too many maritime accidents in past years, involving loss of life and the pollution of the marine environment, with huge recovery and clean-up costs.
Shipping is our lifeline, and these challenges are one we must collectively shift to prevent the declining state of maritime transport.
There is a lot at stake and a lot of work required by us all sitting here today to achieve this great responsibility towards achieving and ensuring safe, reliable and clean maritime transport for our Pacific region.
As we all know we have a Pacific Delegation and Leaders at COP 27 in Egypt calling for a global reduction in emissions to stop our planet from warming above the one-point-five degree target; we must be a part of this conversation and solution.
Our equitable participation, and perhaps even leadership, in the decarbonisation of the shipping sector needs to feature in the discussions and our work into the future.
I ask you to be bold in your review of the Outcome Statement of the 4th Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers’ meeting and advise us, your Pacific Community (SPC) on where the greatest need is within your sector so we can better support your vision towards a safe, reliable and clean Blue Pacific.
I know this is echoed widely by our Pacific region and the Leaders through the Ocean Statement in 2021 calling for “the sustainable and resilient development of the maritime industry”.
We all have a journey ahead however the momentum, passion and commitment in this room today is testament to the fact that as custodians of one of the largest oceanscapes, we can overcome together.
I hope as you discuss the agenda and framing of next year’s Pacific Energy and Transport Ministers meeting this will be at the front of your minds.
Finally, I would also like to thank Samoa for your work since 2019 as chair and for keeping energy and transport as critical areas on the Leaders agenda over the past 3 years.
Finally, I would also like to thank the Government of Vanuatu for their generous offer and readiness to host and chair this meeting today.
I wish you all the very best in your deliberations and a fruitful and a successful meeting this week.