Maritime transport refers to the transportation of cargo and humans by sea or other waterways. It also includes large cargo ships with the leading one being the OOCL Hong Kong. Since time immemorial, maritime transport has been playing a focal role in connecting people, trades and communication. Early man started discovering the world for numerous days sailing the oceans of the world through ships. Concerning Mauritius, it has been a very demanding destination for both tourists and trading partners. In the context of Mauritius, one of the main platforms in the Indian ocean, the maritime transport industry has revolutionized the concept of adventuring towards extending our future even if there are several challenges.
However, to be able to have a bright future, taking risks is a must. As such, this industry has a constant place in the world economy. As stated by Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist,” A ship port is safe but that’s not what ships are made for.
” This implies that ships or marine transportations has an incontrovertible fact that it plays a vital role in the economy of many countries. However, Does Mauritius always have a positive outcome of this sector?
Maritime transport undeniably contributes significantly to the global supply chain. There are the top five countries being Hong Kong, Singapore, Rotterdam, London and Hamburg. From the most recent research, dated 10th April 2019, Singapore is still the leading maritime nation with a total turnover of Bn $9.80 in 2017. As a matter of concern, more than 80% of world trade is carried by sea, which clearly indicated the majority being marine transports with a growth of 3.
1% for the past three decades. Just like Singapore, Mauritius is also very committed to position itself in a better maritime nation position. Primarily, maritime transport such as ships are designed to carry huge amounts of cargo containers. Today, over 55,000 cargo ships are active in international trade and approximately 20 million containers are travelling across the oceans every day. This is exemplified by the total imports of liquid’s 12.4% increase worldwide, representation 190,775 tonnes.
On the brighter aspect of maritime transport, it is regarded as the safest medium of transport, with the least risk of accidents and also taking into account the environmental issues therefore progressing towards a brighter future. In Mauritius, the Merchant Shipping Regulation ACT, GN No. 47of 2019, sites that all the materials on board should be checked and also maintenance should be on point also minimising fuel usage for engines. This has also led to the enlargement of the Mauritian ports which is now able to have one big ship at a time in the port. This step forward towards development has brought great success to Mauritius’s maritime transportation systems and has helped the country to emanate into a dynamic developing country. This is justified by the coast line of the port being changed to Grand River North West to Baie du Tombeau.
Additionally, the maritime transport offers a big number of jobs opportunities to the local people and also at international level. The fleet is represented in over 150 countries with a total crew number of over 1.5 million sailors which is a very good number as job availability is gradually decreasing in other fields. The minimal salary for an individual working at sea is Rs30,000 to Rs1 million, which is thrice the minimum wage given to land worker. This was illuminated by Mr Premdut Koonjoo, the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, and Shipping on a press conference on 7th August 2015.The increase in production, consumption and high degree of automation of systems has also contributed to a rise in the opportunities of Mauritius. A bigger port would mean a larger number of incoming ships and Mauritius being a little island can greatly position itself with ease in the general trading market and become stable in its economy. Another concrete indication is the Prime Minister Jugnauth pointing out that the marine sector is the fastest growing one of the ocean economies and will have a leading role to play in the coming years.
Coming to the challenges that Mauritius can face to position itself as a maritime nation is mainly related to the fuel cost of the ships. This is due to the unpredictable prices varying due to global demands. This can affect the transportation as Mauritius being a small island cannot afford to pay extremely high prices for fuels which can result to losses in the trading transactions. To illustrate the effect of rising fuel costs, consider the following example of a large modern container vessel used in Trans-Pacific trade, with an actual, maximum container capacity of 7,750 TEUs.With the cost of bunker fuel at $552 per ton, and with fuel consumption of 217 tons per day, a single 28-day round trip voyage for this one vessel would produce a fuel bill of $3,353,952. This number could be greater for a number of reasons, such as if the voyage were more than 14 days long, or if the vessel were smaller and less fuel-efficient per container, or if scheduling delays required the vessel to speed up to stay on-schedule.
The next problem is labour force of Mauritius. With an extreme level of low availability of unskilled labour force willing to work for the maritime transport service, it may be a negative factor in Mauritius’s challenge to position itself as a maritime nation. This is due to the lack of skilled labour mostly due to low level of education or lesser importance to maritime transports. As a matter of concern, countries such as China, Brazil, Malaysia and India have emerged as new super powers with a good political commitment and also cheap labour costs which can be serious competitors to Mauritius as it has an unavailability of workers in this sector. According to Digest of Labour Statistics of 2017, a total of 587 Mauritian was working full time in the oceans of Mauritius which is a lot lesser than other countries.
Furthermore, Pirates played an important role in the history of Mauritius in the 18th century, and today they are back, as Mauritius has become a key player in the international fight to curb the wave of piracy that is menacing global shipping in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius has caught Somalian pirates recently in its waters and due to a good coast guard system, they were arrested and put to jail. This is certainly a pessimistic impression for the traders of Indian Ocean as fear may drag them to the unwillingness to classify Mauritius as a desirable place for trading which puts Mauritius down in terms of maritime position.
As a concluding note, Mauritius has the ability to achieve higher standards in terms of maritime transport. They only need to train more workers to work on ships and also enlarge the port to be able to attract bigger ships to come to the country. Therefore, Mauritius can position itself as a maritime nation which works towards a better future and developing the country as maritime transport is now one of the high-income generating sectors. As a matter of deep concern, Mauritius can therefore devote itself to running its economy on an maritime-oriented economy.
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