The OECS maritime sector is of systemic and strategic importance given the region’s vulnerabilities to climate-related disasters and emergencies in addition to its high susceptibility to external shocks. 90 percent of Caribbean imports and exports are carried by sea, while the Caribbean Sea has become one of the main global hubs for tourism. The OECS region already had challenges prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in integrating into global supply chains. Where regional supply chains exist, these remain fragile and uncertain.
During his contribution at the Oceans Forum, Head of the Permanent Delegation of the OECS in Geneva, His Excellency Colin Murdoch, explained that simultaneous growth in globalisation, containerisation, and cruise tourism has resulted in competition for berth space in many Caribbean ports. However, he noted that port infrastructure in the Caribbean has not always kept pace with changes in the global shipping industry and this has a direct impact on the region’s ability to engender sustainability and resilience in maritime supply chains.
“There is clearly a need to urgently factor climate change considerations into port development, redevelopment, operation and management. As Small Island Developing States (SIDS), there needs to be a recognition that the impact of climate change will affect the fulfilment of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which necessitates a multi-layered approach to building resilience. In this regard, stakeholders from the private sector and the public sector need to be engaged and involved, wherever possible, in identifying threats and opportunities, and in formulating solutions.”
Ambassador Murdoch identified a need for sustainable, climate adaptative, supportive, policy action to be integrated into what is now a compartmentalised trade network (ports, road networks, commerce, etc) in OECS Member States. This shift, he said, will require technical support from development partners like UNCTAD.
“There is a pressing need for work to be continued and deepened, for example in areas of research and multi-hazard assessments, and for the work by UNCTAD to be expanded, in collaboration with others, to assess risks for all ports and airports in the OECS to develop technical and policy solutions to help build resilience.”
UNCTAD’s 4th Oceans Forum on trade-related aspects of Sustainable Development Goal 14 was held in Geneva, Switzerland from April 6 – 8, 2022 under the theme A shift to a sustainable ocean economy: Facilitating post-COVID-19 recovery and resilience.