Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here today, to talk about the maritime sector, being one of my favorite topics.
Albania has a long coastline (476 km). This area – ILLYRIA - used to be a maritime hub more than two thousand years ago. This hub was later lost, and Albania has not had a significant maritime tradition in modern times. This can and should change.
Albania has a great maritime potential. I have travelled in the coastal areas of Albania and spoken to many local authorities and to local business. I believe that the maritime sector can be a significant engine behind growth and development in the Albanian economy in the future, as it has been in Norway for a very long time. It is about making use of the opportunities, and it is about diversifying the Albanian industry.
It is encouraging to see the commitment of Minister Gjiknuri and his Ministry. Albanian authorities are recognizing the potential for economic growth and job creation related to the maritime industries. The maritime sector seems to be climbing up the list of priorities in Government documents and strategies.
So far, there has primarily been a focus on harbor capacities. This should be supplemented by a more comprehensive and holistic approach in the future. Norway is ready to assist in expanding the focus.
Norway has a strong tradition and vast experience from the maritime industries. More than 100 000 people are employed in the Norwegian maritime industries (the petroleum industry not included), with an average value creation of around EUR 17-18 billion a year (the petroleum industry not included). We are among the biggest offshore petroleum producers, shipping nations and exporters of fish and seafood, in the world – as well as a frontrunner in maritime research and sustainable management.
The main Norwegian strategy – called Maritime 21 - is a holistic approach that connects authorities, businesses and the research environment. Key Norwegian priorities are shipping management and competitive shipping rules, safety at sea, competence and education, research, development and innovation, international rules and regulations, and blue and green growth.
There is a special focus on research and technology. The maritime sector needs continuous innovation just like any other sector. We are for example talking about advanced use of ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology, ocean tourism and remote controlled ships, advanced mineral extraction on the seabed and offshore seafood production.
Part of why development of the maritime sector in Norway has been successful and sustainable, is that plans and decisions are knowledge-based. The collection, management and distribution of knowledge must be managed in a professional and efficient way.
It is all about making use of opportunities in a growing market. The OECD estimates that the contribution of offshore industries to the global economy will double within 2030, and generate millions of jobs.
Turning back to Albania. Norway is ready to support the development of the Albanian maritime sector. It is about developing maritime clusters and sharing experience. This support will be contributions and advice to plans, legislation, capacity building, environment, navigation and communication, mapping and technology. Norway can also provide some project financing, but the big money most come from the big donors, international banks and not the least – gradually from Albanian authorities itself.
More concretely, we start with supporting three maritime projects, together with partners – the UNDP, the Norwegian Maritime Research Institution (NTNU) and the Norwegian Mapping Authority. You will hear more about these projects in few minutes. Norway is committed to be a long-term partner for Albania in the years to come.
Thank you for your attention!