The FINANCIAL — The Georgian Black Sea town of Batumi, which is home to the country’s State Maritime Academy, is celebrating World Maritime Day on September 24. Georgia has been actively involved in the maritime sector for a few years – foreign investments are being attracted, Georgian seafarers are operating on ships sailing under the flags of different countries, research activities are being carried out, more young people get interested in this field. EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell marked the day and noted that the European Union and Georgia have been working step-by-step to ensure that the Black Sea becomes a bridge that unites us and brings us closer together.
In recent years, the country has undergone a number of drastic changes in this field. In particular, as a result of the audit of the seafarers’ education and certification system, starting from 2014 Georgian seafarers have the right to be employed without restrictions on the ships registered under the flags of EU member states. If before 2014 Georgian seafarers operated mainly on the ships of two European countries – Malta and Cyprus, today they are employed on the ships of countries such as Italy, Portugal, Greece and many more.
The EU has been supporting the development of the Georgian maritime sector through various project and programs, addressing a whole range of issues, including the improvement of infrastructure, reinforcement of navigational safety and security, protection of the marine environment, as well as introduction of the modern standards of education and training. All these reforms aim to support the country in its plans to establish the institutional and legislative framework necessary for a sustainable maritime transportation system with international high standards, together with new technology and innovation, energy efficiency, digitalization and integration of maritime/port services and more.
Harztell said that together EU and Georgia have worked to modernise capacities, raised environmental and safety standards, made sure that seafaring is becoming an increasingly attractive trade for new people to join in a sustainable manner. He then stated that this is very important for Georgia’s economy and Georgia’s vision of becoming a transport and connectivity hub in the wider region. He also mentioned that today there are more than 12,000 Georgian seafarers, who contribute some five hundred million lari to the Georgian state budget every year and last year alone there was increase of container traffic going through Georgian ports, which shows the potential for further growth.
Hartzell praised EU-Georgia cooperation in the maritime sphere and announced that on the occasion of the World Maritime Day, the EU is launching an information campaign highlighting the significant progress that Georgia has made so far, as well as the future prospects. These include: International standard maritime education opportunities in Georgia and the quality jobs they lead to; Economic opportunities from adopting EU standards and a first ever State Maritime Transport Strategy; Continual work to ensure environmental protection of the Black Sea. Hartzell also announced that the EU and Georgia are working on the first ever Georgian Maritime Strategy. Georgian Economy Minister Natia Turnava is also in Batumi to join the celebration. She said that during the pandemic the world once again saw the importance of shipping and the people working in this field to create a sustainable future for humanity, according to agenda.ge
Natia Turnava stated that the contribution of each seafarer to the country’s economy is enormous: according to the most conservative estimates, about 500 million GEL is brought into the country’s economy annually, and in this respect they form an important basis for the sustainability of the Georgian economy. She also said that 2019 data shows that Georgia ranked 13th in terms of the supply of officers on EU ships and that in last recent years Georgia has had a 40 per cent increase in the employment of Georgian sailors on ships sailing under the flags of European countries compared to 2015.
It is also noteworthy that on September 16, The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has approved a report on Implementation of the EU Association Agreement, initiated by Sven Mixer, with Georgia. At the plenary session, 552 MEPs voted in favor of the document, 61 against and 78 abstentions. The report says that Georgia has remained committed to the implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and is continuing its alignment with the EU standards, which is bringing increasing benefits. Read more.