Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all. We are here today to celebrate World Maritime Day. The World Maritime Day theme for 2012 is "IMO: One hundred years after the Titanic," which focuses on safety at sea.
This theme provides us in Fiji the opportunity to take stock of the developments in maritime safety and to examine which areas of ship safety should be given priority now, and in the years to come.
Each new generation of vessels brings new opportunities but also new challenges and, regrettably, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement. Our efforts to promote and ensure maritime safety will never stop.
What separates the passenger and cruise ship industry from the rest of shipping is the unique nature of its cargo?people. The lives of thousands of people are in the hands of the ship's management, the captain and crew and the operating staff. I therefore hope that this sector, in particular, will take the opportunity to lead the way, because "safety" is its main product?above comfort, entertainment or leisure.
That is why, in 2011, my government endorsed the review of the Marine Act 1986. A revised Marine Act, after extensive public and stakeholder consultation, has been drafted and vetted, and two decrees are ready for presentation to the Maritime Industry for final review and comment, prior to Cabinet endorsement.
Our goals will not be achieved through legislative measures alone. We must generate a new impetus within the shipping community to go beyond compliance with regulations and explore mechanisms to ensure that a culture of safety is embedded throughout the entire Industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, As with other island nations, Fiji is dependent on maritime transport for not only its exports and imports, but also for internal transport of both passengers and freight. The inter-island services between Suva and Vanua Levu are arterial links, providing for inter-island domestic freight, international feeder cargo, and domestic and some tourist traffic.
As one of the most important hubs in the Pacific, Fiji is also a strategic centre for cargo traded not only between the Pacific Island Countries, but also between the region and the rest of the world.
My Government recognises the fact that greater strain will be put on Fijian ports as trade continues grows. We are committed to upgrading and expanding our port facilities in order to meet the requirements of growth.
Ports that are adapting to accommodate growing international trade are Wairiki, which has been built specifically to load pine chips for export to Japan; and Galoa, which is used for the loading of bauxite for export to China.
Ladies and gentlemen, my Government has also supported the FNU School of Maritime Studies with a grant of $2 million for the purchase of an electronic bridge. This will allow the school to better meet the requirements of the maritime industry in Fiji and will allow our students to compete within the global markets by capitalising on the high demand for mariners on foreign going vessels. This furthers our goal of establishing the School of Maritime Studies as the preferred institution for providing maritime studies in the Pacific, and beyond.
With a fresh commitment to a culture of safety and professionalism, with upgraded and expanded port facilities, and with better-trained students entering the profession, we must all continue to work together to improve the industry in Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu and thank you.