The maritime sector is of crucial importance in terms of social and economic development, and offers excellent employment and career opportunities worldwide.
The maritime sector is of crucial importance to modern societies. Nevertheless, general public have a limited perception and appreciation of its influence and role as an essential element in terms of social and economic development, and as a potential source of excellent employment and career opportunities, with several million people currently working in activities and companies directly and indirectly related to oceans and seas worldwide.
Historically, the shipping and fishing industry have experienced a continuous trend of increase both in their fleets and in total trade volume and fishing capacity respectively.
Thus, shipping has long been the major form of transport, as well as an essential communication link connecting coastal cities, countries and continents. Next to rail transportation, water transportation is economically and environmentally the most efficient way to travel or transport merchandise; and, nowadays, around 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry.
In parallel to the extraordinary increase of traditional sea-related activities, the maritime sector has experienced a significant qualitative and quantitative expansion with the appearance and development of two new industrial growth poles: the offshore oil exploration and production industry, and the cruise sector.
The enormous growth of world population and the subsequent increasing of energy needs, in both developing and developed countries, call for an increase in the offshore exploration and production of hydrocarbons. A new era of energy production made possible by many achievements in exploration, drilling, storage and transportation techniques comparable with the space industry, engaging many countries in drilling operations off the coast of 74 nations worldwide.
In the other hand, the cruise industry has experienced an increasing process of popularization worldwide, reaching a level of enormous significant in the global economy, with more and more cruises and recreational vessels leaving from more varied ports around the world.
Around 50,000 merchant ships, registered in over 150 nations and manned by over a million seafarers of nearly every nationality, transport every kind of cargo internationally. Several thousand oil rigs and support and supply offshore vessels are engaged in the exploration and drilling for oil and gas in almost every corner of the globe. Nearly four million commercial fishing vessels ply the seas and oceans at any given moment. And a myriad of recreational ships (with approximately 40,000 privately-owned ships operating out of the United States in December 2006), including several hundred large and mega cruise ships, offer the most diversified leisure and tourism services to an expanding market.
Maritime activities therefore continue to expand, and bringing benefits for people across the world thanks to a growing efficiency of technical and human resources. The merchant navy, offshore oil sector, commercial fishery and cruise companies are part of the industry of the future, and the maritime sector is already a key catalyst for socio-economic development and international competitiveness in a changing world, with new companies and organizations emerging and establishing operations in Europe, Asia and North America.
Leaving aside its historical evolution and current structure in geographical clusters with homogeneity and linkages amongst its constituents, the maritime sector is composed of organizations and activities such as maritime transportation, the naval industry (naval engineering and shipbuilding companies, and the component supply sector), commercial fishing and aquaculture industry, the cruise and recreational sector, sport and commercial ports and marinas, marine energy sources, navies, marine and ocean research and sciences, maritime training academies and training centres, a wide range of professional services around the maritime activities, and professional associations, trade unions and organizations supporting the rights and interests of seafarers and maritime professionals.
This global sector, supported in the twentieth century by the economies of the North American and Western Europe, has shown strong growth over the last four decades, despite the worldwide economic recession of early 1980s and the financial crises of the late 1990s and 2000, from just over eight thousand billion tonne-miles in 1968 to over 32 thousand billion tonne-miles in 2007; and it is expected to witness a further growth in the coming decades by the demands of China's and India's emerging economies, with the subsequent rise in the level of maritime activities and the economic value and impact they represent.
The social-economic environment has changed sharply in the last years compared to the trends observed in previous decades. Globalisation and the development of low-cost manufacturing centres in East Europe, China and India, the aging and decreasing workforce in developed countries, the rising cost of environmental legislation, the rising of global terrorism, piracy, transnational crimes (human/drug-trafficking and smuggling) and illegal use of the sea (poaching and connected crimes) along with the cost of security measures to combat such phenomena, and the above-referred increasing global energy and food demand are key factors in a period of considerable change, development and new challenges.
It is difficult to quantify the total value of the world maritime industry, and the economic relevance of a sector that affects a wide range of aspects of modern societies and their development. The maritime industry is of huge importance in terms of natural resources and energy, trade and industry, sciences and leisure activities. An essential part of our trade and prosperity, which demands innovative solutions and careful management systems to ensure its long-term sustainability, as well as the implementation of national and international regulations and instruments to address some still-unsolved issues and new problems expected to emerge in a near future (social and labour rights, international registration of ships, taxes, maritime environmental protection, etc.).
Moreover, the need to understand the global ecosystems and environment, as well as their necessary conservation, to find the more efficient mechanisms to deal with phenomena such as climate change, ecosystem disruption, deforestation, depletion of the ozone layer or and rising sea levels have made research and study of the maritime environment a high priority issue.
The merchant marine is a non-military fleet of privately owned merchant ships which provides waterborne transportation for raw material, products and passengers.
The offshore oil and gas industry is composed of a conglomerate of companies and organizations engaged in the exploration and extraction of resources in all the world.
The cruise industry is a highly profitable international activity, and the fastest growing sector of the travel, tourism and leisure industry.
Maritime directory with links to websites offering resources and information on a sector with a world-scale significance and relevance.
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