Over 70 delegates are participating in the 36th Conference of the Pacific Maritime Transport Alliance (PMTA), which commenced in Suva, Fiji today.Delivering his keynote address, Fiji's Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utility, the Hon. Captain Timoci Lesu Natuva, said that the theme of the conference - Pacific ports addressing tomorrow's challenges and opportunities today - was appropriate in view of the many challenges facing maritime industries and ports in the Pacific.
'Some of these challenges are common to all our countries and their ports and require a holistic approach to ensuring that these port facilities remain viable and profitable for the sustainable development of our countries,' the Hon. Natuva said.
He highlighted some of challenges facing Pacific communities: small land size with small populations; geographic isolation; and long distances to major export markets, resulting in high transport costs.
The Hon. Natuva also launched the Pacific Port Workers Training Standards at the conference today. The training standards, initially developed in 1996, underwent a major revision last year to include appropriate training content. The revised standards will be used by Pacific ports to conduct training on safe work practices, including handling of hazardous chemicals and cargoes.
In his welcome remarks, Director of SPC's Economic Development Division John Hogan highlighted the impact of climate change on ports in the Pacific.
'Current issues that will affect the Pacific in the medium to long-term are not so much in sea-level rise as in the severity of storm events, which have a direct impact on port operations and infrastructure,' he said.
In his opening speech, PMTA President Brian Riches touched on the importance of working towards implementing the Framework for Action on Transport Services.
'We need to find ways to strategise and implement initiatives in line with the objectives of the Transport Framework,' he said. 'As an association, we have to put in place improved regional transport services. This exists when people have access to safe and secure transport services.'
PMTA was established in 1978 as the South Pacific Ports Association. The conference is an annual event held for members, port users, business partners and government authorities so that they can gather and discuss matters of importance to Pacific ports.
In addition to association matters, this year's conference will cover sessions on sustainability; capacity; supply chain; protection, risk and security; and environmental response.
The two-day conference is organised by SPC's Transport Programme that has been providing secretariat services to PMTA since 2006.