Strategic Direction

RMP is based in Suva, Fiji Islands. It is part of the Marine Resources Division, which also includes the Coastal Fisheries Programme and the Oceanic Fisheries Programme, both based in Noumea, New Caledonia.  The main components of the Programme are:

• the provision of advice on maritime issues;

• technical capacity supplementation;

• training for maritime administrations, training institutions, ports, ship owners and seafarers throughout the region to ensure their operations conform to international treaties, codes and conventions, and accepted best practice.


The priorities for RMP from 2006 - 2010 will be to:

• assist countries on the “White List” to retain their status and help those wishing to gain accreditation to do so;

• help the region comply with the new international security regime, and any other new and relevant regulatory requirements;

• further develop the region's professional peer networks

The RMP’s goal is: Safe and secure shipping, clean seas, and improved social and economic well-being of seafaring communities within the Pacific Islands region.

RMP has four objectives for the period 2006 to 2010:

• Objective 1: Effective national policy and regulatory frameworks and strong maritime institutions;

• Objective 2: Human resource capacity strengthened;

• Objective 3: Strong professional networks in the Pacific maritime sector;

• Objective 4: National, regional and international recognition of Pacific maritime needs and priorities.

The sea is the most significant geographical feature of the Pacific region. Most international trade and commerce are conducted by sea and most goods reach regional and national markets by sea transport. Ships and seafaring are fundamental Pacific traditions. Most Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) rely on the sea for sustenance (fisheries), coastal transportation and employment in shipping or on fishing vessels.

Economic context

The maritime sector in the Pacific has an important role in addressing poverty in the region. Many Pacific Island people rely on the sea for employment. Regular remittances from seafarers working on vessels that trade internationally comprise more than 25 per cent of gross national product (GNP) in some countries. These remittances tend to provide a more regular and reliable source of cash than small-scale agriculture and fisheries, which are more vulnerable to external factors such as climate and market price. This income allows many families of seafarers to remain in their villages rather than seek employment in urban centres, thereby reducing migration pressure on urban areas.

The wage levels of seafarers on foreign vessels, however, vary considerably among PICTs. For example, I-Kiribati seafarers can earn as much as US$1,000 per month, a substantial wage by regional standards; much lower wages are reported for ni-Vanuatu seafarers (approximately US$250 per month). Such significant differences can be attributed largely to regulatory frameworks (or their absence), rather than to factors such as qualifications.

 Among the region’s significant achievements over the previous plan period was gaining of “White List” status (i.e. recognition by the International Maritime Organisation that full and complete effect had been given to STCW-95 — the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers). According to the 2003 external review of the RMP, this helped save about 4,000 jobs and foreign exchange earnings of USD 16 million.  New jobs were created in niche markets such as cruise ship catering, and the Pacific maritime sector now has a network of human resource expertise that operates to and implements regional standards. Also, there is potential for a significant expansion of Pacific Islander employment on international ships due to the relative slowness of other countries to comply with new international maritime regulations.

Governance and security

Since the 1960s, international bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have sought to regulate international shipping through the development of international treaties, conventions and codes intended to promote a commercial level playing-field and provide for uniform application and enforcement of ship and port safety standards, security requirements, management practices and pollution prevention regulations.

Flag States (i.e. countries where ships are registered) are under increasing pressure to fulfil their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 and other international maritime conventions and codes. The IMO mandates that all seafarers wishing to be employed on vessels that trade internationally must gain certification from a recognised training provider under STCW-95. Growing international concern about terrorist attacks such as September 11 and the Bali bombings has resulted in the introduction of many new legal requirements, e.g. the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The speed with which new rules are planned, proposed and expected to be implemented is a challenge for regional maritime administrations, whose staff numbers range from two to eleven and whose budgets are often strained by increasing compliance costs.

While PICTs’ development may be driven by larger players, non-compliance with international regulations and standards such as STCW-95 and the ISPS Code is not an option for the Pacific. Aided by assistance from external donor partners channelled largely through and coordinated by the RMP, PICTs have coped remarkably well with the demands of compliance, considering that staff levels in maritime institutions range from two or three people in smaller PICTs to around 10 or 11 in the larger ones, compared with 200 staff in Australia, for example. But this success is no reason for complacency. The pressure continues with the prospect of new, even more stringent international regulations and the need to demonstrate at regular intervals that countries and individual seafarers meet existing protocols such as the STCW. All maritime administrations and maritime training institutes are now due for a full STCW-95 audit before the end of 2007 in order to maintain compliance with international requirements. RMP/PacMA audit teams will continue to undertake these audits.

Capacity issues

After initially focusing on building the capacity of Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) to meet international safety and training standards, the RMP has expanded its services over the past two years to help PICTs meet new international security standards in both the shipping and port sectors. The programme has also given priority to securing employment opportunities for Pacific seafarers and to raising their awareness of important social issues such as domestic violence and sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Many Pacific Island countries continue to require assistance to comply with the new international obligations. Without adequate training and capacity building to meet these obligations, countries risk losing their “White List” status and also their ISPS Code compliance status. This would have a devastating impact on trade, economic development and local employment opportunities.

Loss of ISPS Code certification as well as non-compliance with other security related requirements would mean that any vessel trading internationally that calls at a non-compliant PICT port may subsequently be denied access to ports in other countries, while ships registered in non-compliant PICTs may face trading restrictions.  To ensure that countries are able to maintain ISPS compliance, the training and certification of Ship Security Officers, Port Facility Security Officers and Maritime Security Auditors is also essential.

Loss of “White List” status would mean that seafarers would not be able to obtain employment on regional or international ships.  For PICTs to meet their international obligations and maintain their “White List” status, their maritime administrations and ports must have verifiable systems in place and their maritime training institutions (MTIs) must be accredited as recognised training providers. Currently, 12 MTIs in member countries and territories of SPC provide training for seafarers to various levels. Continuing to strengthen their capacity to deliver internationally recognised levels of training is vital.

Over the 2003-2005 period, RMP provided training to 277 seafarers, 163 MTI staff, 73 legal personnel, 153 ship owners, port and cargo operators, 233 maritime administration staff and 101 senior management personnel from PICTs. These personnel were all informed of the requirements of the new security regime, and 438 participants were also trained on the ISPS code.  RMP began a series of compliance audits on Pacific island countries in early 2005 to assess the effectiveness of a country’s maritime management system (e.g. in relation to safety, security, quality and the environment) and compliance with maritime regulations, standards and conventions. Application of the standards by PICTs enables the achievement of uniformity across a range of audits and the development of a management system that is externally auditable. Importantly, this also provides Pacific countries with the ability to monitor their own compliance not only with STCW and the ISPS code but also with other international conventions.

Social context

Despite the positive impact of remittances on seafaring communities, the introduction of substantial amounts of cash to rural communities has also been linked with an increase in consumption of alcohol among seafarers and subsequent violence against women and children. Other significant social issues arise because seafarers employed on foreign vessels are away from their families for extended periods; officers typically spend five to six months at a time on ship, while ratings are often at sea for nine to twelve months. In their absence, seafarers’ wives, and to a lesser extent other family members shoulder all responsibilities for family matters, leading to a heavier workload and thus greater stress and possibly poorer health.

The risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is higher for seafarers than for many other community groups as a result of patterns of sexual behaviour common among seafarers. When these seafarers return home, their wives and other sexual partners are at high risk of also contracting STIs. Furthermore in many PICTs there is still a stigma attached to those infected with STIs, and some Pacific cultures regard it as “bad magic” outside their control.

With the assistance of the RMP and other SPC programmes, national institutions have gained better understanding of social issues and have responded to these challenges by providing seafarers with training in social responsibility and STI prevention as well as by updating training curricula.

SPC's response

Given the importance of shipping and seafaring for both transportation and employment in the Pacific region, it is vital that PICTs have the legal and administrative elements in place to ensure that management and oversight of shipping including fishing vessels are appropriate for the new international security regimes, safety of life and property at sea, and preservation of the marine environment. It is also important that PICTs are able to support their maritime transport sector by providing training that covers both the technical aspects and social impacts of seafaring. Therefore, RMP will focus on assisting PICTs to establish effective national policy and regulatory frameworks and strong maritime institutions, strengthen human resource capacity, establish strong professional networks in the Pacific maritime sector, and gain national, regional and international recognition of Pacific maritime needs and priorities.

Effective frameworks and strong maritime institutions

Most PICT maritime administrations and port authorities have insufficient resources to handle the many complex legal matters associated with both international and domestic shipping. RMP will work to strengthen the administration of the maritime sector through the development of model maritime legislation and the provision of advice to those responsible for adopting and implementing the legislation.

In order to maintain compliance with the rapidly changing international regulatory regime, maritime auditing is being promoted internationally as a means of ensuring countries comply with these obligations. The Pacific now has a regional audit standard based on ISO 9000 which is being used to monitor compliance with international conventions and codes such as STCW-95 and the ISPS Code. The audit-based system already in place in the region can be widened to encompass all activities in the Pacific Islands maritime sector, including safe ship operations, port operations, safety of seafarers including fishermen, and maritime administration best operating practices, to name a few. Audits in these other areas could use a model based on business excellence criteria. There is a great deal of support for this within the maritime sector in the Pacific Islands region.

To be accredited as recognised training providers, the MTIs must demonstrate that they have curricula and facilities that meet STCW-95 criteria. RMP will assist in the development of curricula and provide advice on mobilising resources to acquire the training equipment stipulated under ISPS, STCW-95 and other new international requirements.

Human resource development

Maritime departments are usually staffed by experienced former mariners who would benefit from training to assist them in taking on management or administrative roles ashore. RMP will provide training for staff involved in maritime administration in areas such as law, planning, management and business development.

To ensure MTIs can provide appropriate, accredited training to seafarers, and to strengthen the institutions’ capacity to respond to changes in the maritime sector, RMP will conduct skills training for heads of schools and tutors. As an interim measure, until the MTIs can provide the requisite level of training to the region’s seafarers, RMP will also provide STCW-95 and ISPS training to seafarers currently employed in the sector.

RMP will also explore means to address the social issues inherent in the maritime sector. It will examine how to lessen the impact of seafarers’ long absences on communities, as well as ways to help prevent the spread of STIs such as HIV/AIDS. RMP will collaborate with other programmes within SPC that relate directly to these areas (such as the Pacific Women’s Bureau and the Public Health Programme) and with appropriate government and non-government programmes across the region. RMP will also include “social responsibility” modules in the curricula it develops with the various MTIs.

Strong professional networks

Given the limited resources available for both administrations and training institutes in the maritime sector of many PICTs, there is a need for a long-term regional approach to ensure the sector’s sustainability and good management. The Pacific Islands Maritime Association (PacMA – formerly the Association of Pacific Islands Maritime Training Institutions and Maritime Authorities), whose members now include industry representatives, plays a vital role as a forum for member countries to discuss and harmonise education and training for seafarers. The Association of Pacific Ports (APP) is currently working with RMP on the movement of the APP Secretariat to RMP. RMP also provides secretariat services to the Pacific International Maritime Law Association (PIMLA) and the Pacific Women in Maritime Association (PacWIMA). RMP will work with these associations to strengthen linkages between them and explore their potential roles of providing support and services to the maritime sector that are currently provided through RMP. RMP will also continue to support the innovative self-help structures it has established of people skilled in auditing, lecturing, examining, surveying and port management who are willing to provide advice and assistance to the maritime transport sector throughout the region. RMP envisages that these networks will grow, strengthening the expertise and capacity of Pacific Islanders to manage, administer, regulate, control and work in the maritime transport sector in a socially responsible manner.

One of the obstacles to efficient management of the maritime transport sector is a lack of accurate data for the region about the number of seafarers and their current levels of qualification.  This deficiency has hampered the planning of training courses and curricula for both RMP and MTIs. RMP has established and will continue to manage and update a regional database for registering qualified seafarers, thus providing an information resource for sectoral planners and potential employers in the industry. 

Given the general difficulty of accessing information about issues affecting the maritime sector, RMP will also provide information services in the form of newsletters, bulletins, advisories and an enhanced website. The website is intended to eventually become a “one-stop-shop” for information on the maritime sector and could be one of the resources that PacMA eventually co-ordinates.

Recognition of maritime issues

Many Pacific Island countries have small populations but government ministries have large portfolios to manage. To facilitate decision-making, RMP will seek to bring major issues to the attention of Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other high level officials by means of seminars, publications and advice. Biennial Ministers’ meetings will also ensure that senior levels of government are made aware of national and regional issues and potential solutions. RMP also advocates Pacific Island maritime issues at regional and international fora.

The international maritime security regime will require ongoing support for the region’s ports, maritime administrations and shipping companies to ensure they remain abreast of the latest developments in this area. Rapid change coupled with a small number of players with limited resources will require an innovative and flexible approach to develop best practice models for use in the Pacific. However, improved regional collaboration combined with RMP technical support should lead to evolution of a full compliance mode.

Fishing vessel security is an emerging issue in the region, and RMP has commenced an in-depth study of this issue. Funding will be needed to implement recommended options and to encourage stakeholders to further collaborate to eliminate the perceived threats.

There is strong support for RMP to broaden its services to include harbour and port operations. Often the boundary between the maritime and port sectors is blurred and a significant number of personnel can legitimately claim involvement in both sectors. This was recognised by RMP and partially addressed during the 2003-2005 period by many port staff undertaking RMP supported training. The operational efficiency and safety of the maritime and port sectors impact significantly on each other, and increasing the scope of RMP to include port operations would be consistent with the safety and economic component of the Programme’s mission.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 August 2006 )