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French and Italians come to repair in Tunisia, and Tunisian boats go abroad

A “Blue Talks” webinar was recently organized in Tunisia, as part of Club Bleu’s regular meetings, bringing together experts from the maritime world and attracting more and more interest from Internet users on an international scale. More than 10,000 of them thus followed the debate which took place semi-face-to-face on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 around the theme of “How to mobilize the private sector to develop a sustainable blue economy? »

The figures speak for themselves: more than 1,300 km of coastline, from Tabarka to Zarzis, around forty fishing and pleasure ports, more than 9 million tourists visiting the coasts during the summer period, 95,000 direct jobs and 290,000 indirect jobs in the maritime sector, 90% of the country’s foreign trade is carried out by sea, a GDP of around 12%…

  • Lack of vision on the part of political decision-makers and public institutions

How to explain that despite the richness of this maritime heritage and this strategic position in the heart of the Mediterranean, Tunisia continues to turn its back on the sea?

Hotel owner Mouna Ben Halima focused on the role played by the hotel industry in the sustainability of the blue economy: “It is difficult to place the cursor between the economic objective and that of sustainable development….Our role is to enhance our coastline and preserve it, we are faced with the inaction of public institutions which do not play their role in the protection and development of the coastline… Our correspondence to ask the public authorities concerned to save the beaches of Hammamet remains without answer ! »

The hotel manager thus deplores the fact that the Tunisian authorities have abandoned the certification of local beaches with the “Blue Flag” label, recalling in passing the economic role of tourism for many Tunisian families and wondering about certain aberrations: “how Tunisian hotels can they be competitive in the Mediterranean when they cannot even meet the demands of their customers for boat rental? Tourism and boating go hand in hand! “.

  • Another green company, in the starting blocks

For his part, the entrepreneur Aly Ben Smida returned to the story of the launch of his company, indicating that “we embarked on the construction of our own boats with a strong ecological vision, confirming that the nautical sector was in the starting blocks, waiting for a sign from the public authorities which still hasn’t come. “Not only does the State not encourage this growth sector, but it overwhelms it with taxes, a very restrictive legislative framework, imposing very off-putting authorizations…The blue economy has unfortunately passed under the radars of power public”.

Aly Ben Smida suggests several proposals to promote the boating sector while protecting the coast, such as setting up mooring areas to allow boaters to moor without scraping the seabed, overhauling the regulatory framework for boating and streamline procedures, or the creation of a task force between the various players (boating, hotels, shipyards) to bring a global vision to the authorities. Paul Holthus of the World Ocean Council mission supports this proposal.

  • Italian or French boats repair & maintain in Tunisia. Tunisians go abroad

Claude Miguet, the only industrialist specializing in ship repair in North Africa, testified in turn: “We are strongly committed to sustainability and environmental protection, applying in particular the rules of the International Maritime Organization which works in the field of the prevention of ocean pollution and the dumping of waste at sea. As such, in our shipyards, we modernize boats that were built before the implementation of the latest environmental protection rules, we install systems to clean the fumes and prevent the release of sulfur into the atmosphere, as well as to treat ballast water. The fact of repairing boats in dry docks makes it possible to recover and sort all waste, sheet metal and copper in particular, as well as to evacuate polluted ones – bilge water with oils, etc. in approved treatment centers »

Despite this commitment, Claude Miguet points out the total ignorance of this activity in Tunisia and denounces the taxes that have penalized this sector since 2016, up to 22%. His company is however a competitive center with the rest of the European shipyards. “Many Italian or French boats come for repair or maintenance in Tunisia, while Tunisian boats prefer to go abroad and pay for this service in foreign currency. It’s incomprehensible and expensive,” says the founder of CMR.

  • Call to Nejla Bouden: “Practice what you preach”

In the era of the 21st century, that of maritimization, Tunisia must offer a long-term vision for a sustainable blue economy. As Head of Government Najla Bouden declared on February 11 in Brest at the One Ocean Summit, “the sea is a cultural heritage of Tunisia, the main engine of its economy and an important source of income for a large part of its population. “. Based on this principle, political decision-makers must consult without delay with the various actors of the private sector for the implementation of structural reforms and an appropriate legislative framework. And thus ensure the improvement of the business environment with a view to reviving investment, while respecting the objectives of the United Nations’ SDGs14.

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