The Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands spoke at the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) conference held in Port Louis on 13-15 October and outlined the government’s ambitions for this growing business sector.
Each year 35,000 ships transit the waters around Mauritius moving between Asia, Southern Africa and South America and over the last few years, the number of ships taking on bunker fuel in Port Louis has been increasing.
Last year the volume supplied rose from 269,324 metric tons in 2013 to 287,546 metric tons in 2014, an increase of around 6.8%. However, this figure represents just 30% of the government’s short term goal of 1 million metric tons of bunker exports per year.
To support this growth the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to transform the port into a business friendly, industry leading petroleum and bunkering hub. The bunker trade has been liberalised, with government incentives provided through the reduction and removal of charges and duties and an improved quicker process for issuing bunkering licences and import permits.
The port limits have been extended to provide for sites which would allow the anchorage and furtherance of petroleum based activities, a full feasibility study has been conducted and a master plan developed.
IBIA’s one and a half day event, Mauritius: A Bunker Hub: Driving the Ocean Economy was proceeded by two days of tailored training, covering basic bunkering and the structure needed for bunker operations development. The training courses set a record for IBIA by attracting 53 delegates reflecting the widespread and very real interest in this new initiative.
As the Government of Mauritius acknowledges, a successful bunker port will need efficient cargo handling facilities, deep shipping channels, adequate berth and quay capacity and of course a skilled workforce. The IBIA training courses are the first tailored coaching offered in the local region in preparation for this significant business growth.
The Minister responsible for Training and Development delivering a speech at the IBIA event took the opportunity to urge the younger generation to seriously consider the range of career opportunities on offer in this growing sector. Ultimately the government believes that the ocean economy has the potential to employ 25,000 people.
The last session of the IBIA Forum focused on business social responsibility and career development and was attended by the universities of Mauritius and their students. The session looked at capacity building using the Lawhill Maritime Centre, in South Africa as an example. The centre provides industry-focused education offering students specialised knowledge and skills making it possible for them to build successful careers in the maritime industry.
The training and forum was followed by a series of meetings between government departments and IBIA in order to develop ways to work together towards sustainable goals.
Peter Hall, CEO IBIA commented: “Our first regional forum in the Indian Ocean region has been a great success. The government has taken the strategic decision to develop the petroleum industry as a core pillar of its economic plan. As a result, it has implemented new measures to ensure a reputable, reliable high quality business-friendly environment with real opportunities, as reflected in the attendance at this event.
“This development could be a significant economic accelerator for the country, as ships that stop for fuel spend on other services, in fact, it is estimated that at current prices, for every $100 spent on fuel, an additional $100 is spent in the local economy, on direct and indirect services such as agency fees, port charges and deliveries to the ship and crew transfers, hotels, career development, finance bunker trading, to just mention a few”.