This article aims at explaining the work of national ministries and why it is relevant to the marine industry.
What are national ministries?
The dictionary definition of a ministry is a government department headed by a minister. Ministries are subdivisions of the executive branch of the government and subordinate to the head of government. Usually, a government will have various ministries which vary between countries but commonly include a ministry of defence, ministry of foreign affairs and ministry of health among others. Relevant ministries in the marine industry are, to mention a few, ministries of maritime affairs, transport, infrastructure, water, or shipping.
Why are they relevant?
Each ministry is charged with the preparation of matters within its mandate, commonly indicated by its name, and with the general proper management of public administration. Matters decided by the government are usually prepared in the relevant ministry, which is why their work is crucial to the decision-making process.
Whether it concerns environmental, safety or economic matters of national or international relevance, the ministries of the countries involved will have an interest in acting. Seafaring nations, some of the biggest being Greece, Japan, China and Singapore amongst others, usually feel particularly responsible to tackle current issues in the marine industry, and it is the respective ministries which are able to do so.
However, those ministries alone cannot make much without the input from stakeholders of sectors involved in the marine industry, and vice versa. While both might have the same goal, their interests in achieving it and the way to do so might differ. The government and the marine sector must cooperate with each other in order to find suitable, realistic and effective strategies.
How are they involved?
One example of the work of national ministries in the area of the marine industry is the “Green Deal” recently concluded in the Netherlands, which aims at removing barriers to effectively promote sustainability in the shipping sectors. It does so by introducing measures to reduce emissions of harmful airborne substances and CO2 emissions caused by the inland and sea shipping sectors. Notable is that concluding a Green Deal presented an avenue for the port authorities, maritime sector organisations, research institutes and other stakeholders to negotiate with the minister of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Flag States and national ministries
Countries have to adhere to a number of international legal obligations, which is where Flag States and national ministries are involved. In the Netherlands for example, IL&T is the flag state, and as a Flag State they are an agency for the ministry of infrastructure and water management. Beyond that, Flag States also delegate certain tasks to Recognized Organizations, since states often lack sufficient resources and infrastructure to complete those themselves.
As we have discussed in our previous article, the delegation of tasks from Flag States to Recognized Organizations leads to concerns regarding the latter’s independence.
In conclusion, considering the issues we highlighted regarding Recognized Organisations and Flag States, could the national ministries have a decisive role in finding solutions?