World Maritime Day is conceived from collaboration between the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and its parent body the United Nations. The day is celebrated in the last week of September in an effort to celebrate the international shipping industry’s contribution to the global economy.
The event focuses on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security, marine environment and emphasises the particular aspects of the IMO’s work. Each year a new theme is chosen, and for 2017 the theme is ‘Connecting Ships, Ports, and People’. The theme was selected in order to focus on numerous varied actors involved in shipping and logistics.
It builds upon 2016’s World Maritime Day theme, ‘Shipping: indispensable to the world’, and will help IMO member states to develop and implement maritime strategies. Some of the combined interagency approaches to address a range of issues include improving efficiency of maritime transport, navigational safeties, protection of marine environment and maritime security.
Adopting this approach facilitates concerned UN bodies to contribute in achieving UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which are broadly aimed at tackling issues being faced by the world like increasing world population, climate change, threats to the environment, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, threats to food security and instability leading to mass migration.
Collective working towards above outlined points through more efficient shipping and its connections with port sector supported by all member states may ensure global security and sustainable development.
The maritime sector, which includes shipping, ports and people, has its role to play in enabling IMO member states to formulate conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability through promoting maritime trade.
Member states should also seek improvements in the port and maritime sectors in an effort to generate prosperity at sea through the development of a sustainable blue economy. Additionally, the benefits of a free and efficient flow of commerce extend considerably beyond ships and ports.
Security of maritime environment is of great significance to Pakistan due to its heavy reliance on the sea for its commerce which will increase substantially with the Gwadar/CPEC mega project. Pakistan has a long coastline and large Extended Economic Zone (EEZ) that extends out to Continental Shelf (giving it a maritime area of 290,000 sq km).
The coast and extended EEZ is underutilised in relation to its potential for instant the fishing activity is highly concentrated in the coastal regions only.
A partial remedy to this is to raise awareness amongst the general population through educational activities and celebrating World Maritime Day helps in this regard. Pakistan Navy has long been in the forefront of this endeavour through its activities to raise the profile of World Maritime Day by raising maritime awareness in general, and highlighting its contribution towards the sustainable development of the nation’s maritime sector.
Pakistan Navy has also taken considerable strides in raising environmental issues like need to rehabilitate the coastal mangroves, propagating maritime awareness campaigns and highlighting dangers of sea pollution that pose threats to the economy. Pakistan Navy has also hosted numerous events in the past such as the Biennial International Maritime Conference and International Maritime Symposium etc.
Furthermore, it should be remembered that for years after independence Pakistan Navy was the only organisation through which the Federal Government was able to establish its authority along the Makran Coast as Pakistan Navy has been deeply involved in efforts to develop the coastal regions ever since.
Pakistan Navy’s early and steady endeavours have culminated in the establishment of coastal infrastructure and Gwadar port, as the first jetty for smaller ships was the initiative of Pakistan Navy in the early 1980s, from which eventually grew the port we have today. Similarly, Jinnah Naval Base at Ormara was built entirely from scratch, and the benefits for the surrounding region have been immeasurable.
There existed almost no trappings of modern civilisation such as schools, hospitals, or even far more basic infrastructure such as roads and pathways.
Pakistan Navy initiatives of making all such facilities like school, colleges and hospital for common population along the coast were a few endeavours and commitments to social responsibility.
This is a pattern being repeated all along the coast, thereby accruing greater ability to exploit resources in the coastal regions/EEZ and support further development in infrastructure.
A key contributor in any future coastal development project has been the Hydrographic Department of Pakistan Navy that has surveyed the entire coastal region and identified locations for further ports.
The Hydrographic Department was also the driving force behind identifying, correcting, and demarcating Pakistan’s maritime boundaries.
It has therefore remained instrumental in making the case for the extension of Continental Shelf and is active in conducting surveys of this entire area to identify aspects of economic and scientific interest that can be exploited for the benefit of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Navy has long been actively engaged in taking measures that support those being promoted in this year’s theme for World Maritime Day.
Pakistan’s economic dependence (from where it generates a sizable amount of its revenue) is largely associated to sea trade; however, in comparison it has a no sea-faring population in coastal regions and has large population in the central and northern region of the country.
This untapped potential has cost the nation a considerable amount in lost revenue over the decades.
However, the advent of CPEC and operationalisation of Gwadar port as the major regional deep water port and nodal point of regional trade and commerce will be the spark that finally rectifies this shortcoming.
The theme for World Maritime Day this year is therefore very timely for Pakistan in furthering efforts to increase maritime awareness amongst the population, and encourage the national leadership to adopt/implement additional measures to further exploit the nation’s maritime economy.
An efficient partnership between ports and shipping industry will benefit Pakistan’s three major ports of Gwadar, Karachi and Port Qasim in handling effective trade for the country.
Likewise, CPEC project through Gwadar port will link the regional and extra regional ports with Pakistan and will benefit and expand Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC). PNSC expansion will therefore, boost national revenue and generate employment for the locals.
To conclude the theme for World Maritime Day 2017 has special resonance for Pakistan to benefit from it.
Awareness of maritime affairs will help Pakistan’s population to lose their ‘sea blind’ character.
Pakistan Navy efforts for regional maritime awareness will enhance Pakistan’s ability to ensure peace and stability at home as well as abroad.