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How to mobilize the private sector for a sustainable blue economy?

The “Blue Talks” webinar is 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: How to mobilize the private sector to develop a sustainable blue economy?

This meeting was built around discussions with four guests: Mouna Ben Halima, CEO Hotel La Badira, Claude Miguet, General Manager CMR, Aly Ben Smida, CEO of Nottoy Boat and Paul Holthus, President & CEO of World Ocean Council.

The debate was moderated by Rym Benzina, President of the association La Saison Bleue and Mehdi Ben Haj, Vice-President.

“A poorly exploited potential, with a lack of vision on the part of political decision-makers and public institutions”

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 being carried out by sea, a GDP of around 12%… How can we explain that despite the richness of this maritime heritage and this strategic position at the heart of the Mediterranean, Tunisia continues to turn its back on the sea?

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 to preserve it, we are faced with the inaction of public institutions which do not play their role in the protection and development of the coast… Our correspondence to ask the public authorities concerned to save the beaches of Hammamet remains unanswered! Mouna Ben Halima 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 can tunisian hotels be competitive in the mediterranean when they cannot even meet the demands of their clientele for boat rentals? Tourism and boating go hand in hand! “.

Aly Ben Smida returned to the story of the launch of the Nottoy Boat company: “we started building our own boats with a strong ecological vision, thanks to modern technologies, allowing us to have lighter models and less energy-consuming with electric motors”, with a vision of respect for the sea for a sustainable blue economy. Confirming that the nautical sector was in the starting blocks, awaiting a sign from the public authorities which still has not come. “Not only does the State not encourage this growth sector, but on the contrary 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 nautical sector while protecting the coast:

• Set up mooring areas to allow boaters to moor without scraping the seabed

• Overhaul the regulatory framework for boating and streamline procedures

• Thinking about a long-term blue economy

• Create a task force between the different actors (boating, hotels, shipyards) to bring a global vision to the authorities

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 fumes and prevent the release of sulfur into the atmosphere, as well as to treat ballast water. 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 treatment centers approved »

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.

Paul Holthus presents the mission of the World Ocean Council: “an organization that brings together all companies, of all sizes and all sectors, to work at the national, regional and international level on the subjects of governance, spatial planning, ocean management. A major American player, bringing together all maritime economic circles on an international scale, the World Ocean Council thus supports Aly Ben Smida’s proposal to create task forces in order to convince political decision-makers to work for a sustainable blue economy. long-term.

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