Interview with Mr. Binali Yıldırım, Minister of Transportation, Maritime and Communication

Exclusively for our first issue; we interviewed with the person who is at the helm of Turkish Maritime; Mr. Binali Yıldırım; Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication.

Interview with Mr. Binali Yıldırım, Minister of Transportation, Maritime and Communication
05 May 2013 - 04:44
 SeaNews: As  you are at the helm of Turkish Maritime Administration since 3rd of November 2002, after more than  11 years at the Administration of Maritime, could you give us a briefing and an assessment of the past as well?  What are the main differences of the current outlook compared to the outlook when you took office?

Binali Yıldırım: I think the best assessment on this matter could be carried out by just looking at the figures of Turkish shipbuilding sector. In the  years of 2002 and 2003 the total number of shipyards in Turkey was 37, and today this number is increased to 71, and likewise, installed capacity of Turkish shipyards was  550 thousand DWT/ year then and now it is increased to 3.60 million DWT / year.

When we started to work, very few of our staff at the Maritime Administration  was of maritime origin. First of all, we initiated the work by increasing the number of staff with maritime/sea origin/background. 6.7% Maritime Administration staff were with maritime education background in 2002 and we increased this ratio up to 30%.  Of course, we took important steps in giving the jobs to eligible people. It is one of the our main target  to strengthen the hand of our mariners in  international competitive environment which exists in maritime sector by it’s nature and to open their way. In this context, Turkish-flagged ships which were blacklisted for years, has been upgraded to grey and then finally to white list which eventually has been increasing their international reputation. With the result of intensive PSC control efforts, our flag remained in the white list since then.

Also, in year 2010, Shore Facilities National Master Plan has been prepared in order to build up the port facilities and other shore facilities in parallel with our needs and in convenient locations.

Most of the applications has been transferred to electronic environment. All arrival and departure operations of vessels, ship and port fees charged and the collection of the fees and charges has been ported to a fully electronic environment.

As a review, I would like to share some of the data with you:

Vessels operating in Cabotage services (Domestic voyages) began to be supported in 2004 by the Government  with the exclusion of Special Consumption Tax on the use of fuel, and by the end of 2012 with an amount of  approximately TL 3.1 billion of support was provided.

Beginning of the implementation of  Special Consumption Tax exclusion on fuel in 2004, a total of 2.7 million tons of fuel had been delivered by the end of 2012. Price stability in the transportation of passenger and vehicles  has been accomplished by means Special Consumption Tax exclusion and in the end of the day, all these efforts were to the benefit of our citizens.

Number of passengers transported  in domestic voyages in 2002 was approximately 99 million, and in 2012, there is a vast increase of %61 which means a number exceeding 159 million passengers.

And again, in 2002, only 5.4 million vehicles were transported by sea in domestic voyages; and this number increased to 10,7 million in 2012, which meant 97% increase in ratio.

Amount of cargo handled in domestic sea transportation was 28.8 million tons in 2002, there is an increase of 63% in 2012 to 46.9 million tons.

Our ports handled 190 million tons of cargo in 2002, with an increase of 104% in 2012, it’s exceeded 387 million tons.

The amount of containers handled in our ports was 1.9 million TEUs in 2002, with an increase of 268% in 2012, it reached to approximately 7.2 million TEU.

Export shipments by the sea was 43 million tons in 2002, with an increase of 112% in 2012, it reached to 91 million tons.

At imports side, In 2002, 90 million tons of cargo imported through maritime  transportation, and in 2012 we witnessed an increase of 114% which meant 192 million tons.

In this regard, the total foreign trade maritime shipments were 133 million tons in 2002, with an increase of 114% it exceeded 283 million tons in 2012.

Foreign trade goods carried by sea in 2002 was 40.7 billion USD, and this amount reached to $ 207 billion in 2012; which meant an increase of 408%.

Transit shipments was 28.5 million tons in 2012; with an increase of 99% in 2012 it reached to 56 million tons.

In 2002, 821 cruise ships called at our harbours; in 2012; with an increase of 105%; our ports hosted 1685 cruise ships.

The number of cruise passengers visiting harbors was 332 thousand in 2002, with  increase of 541% in 2012, it exceeded $ 2 million.

Turkey, visited by more than 14 million passengers through 10 harbors,  ranks the 4th position in cruise tourism at Mediterranean basin  after the  Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Overseas regular Ro-Ro lines transported 200 thousand vehicles in 2002, with an increase of 102% in 2012, this figure has exceeded 400 thousand.

Turkish-owned fleet consisted of 9.3 million DWT in 2002, and in 2012, Turkey ranked as 15th in the world with a fleet capacity of 24.2 million DWT. That means 160% increase compared to 2002.

SeaNews: How is the position of Turkish maritime sector at the related international fora? How do you comment on the activities at  the International Maritime Organization and other related international organizations?

Binali Yıldırım: The representation of maritime industry in the international fora improved in parallel with  economic development and growth of the sector. Firstly, improvements at the quality and growth improved the reputation of Turkish Shipping. This reputation is felt in all our international activities. Turkish Flag is in the White List and Captains of Turkish Flagged ships are no more afraid of Port State Controls due to flag-related concerns. Turkey is an active Flag-State and well-heard, listened and consulted and contributing country at all  international organizations, and is participating in international studies.

We accelerated process to accept  International Conventions

In the last few years, Turkey became party at a number of International Conventions; and, the process of previously partied Conventions has been accelerated as well; therefore approvals of our Parliament started to come one after the other. Conventions such as Ship Recycling Convention, Ballast Water Management, MARPOL Annex 6, Bunker Convention indicates the high level of standards that Turkish Maritime Legislation has reached.

Our work to become party of Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) which will enter force on August 2013 is ongoing and we are cooperating with Ministry of Labor and Social Security on this matter. All these efforts improves the image and reputation of Turkey both in IMO and other international organizations and at the world markets.  The factors played role in this achievement were growth of the sector, built ports and harbors, marinas, increasing the number and capacity of fishing boat shelters. Turkish seamen are in the white list of STCW Convention and all of the certificates, competencies we endorsed are recognized at EU states.

Were almost exactly aligned with EU legislation. Turkey effectively and efficiently participate in all the world’s problems, such as the fight against piracy.

Turkey serves to the world.

Establishing Emergency Response Centers; installing advanced technology projects  to protect the life, property and environment at sea; VTS systems, advanced communications services all contributes to the safety of navigation at sea.

Turkish Flag is in the Paris MOU White List

As a result of steady work and appropriate steps of our Administration; Turkish Flagged-ships which were in the Black List Paris Memorandum on Port State Control inspections with a inspestion/detention ratio of 25%; achieved a gradual improvement in 2003, 2004 and 2005; inspection/detention ratio decreased by approximately 3.5-fold; and finally upgraded to grey list first in 2006 and in White List first time in 2008.

From this date, the position of the Turkish flag in the White List is maintained by improving, and is still in the Paris MOU White List. Likewise, we observed serious decrease in the detentions at Tokyo MOU, the Mediterranean MOU, the Black Sea MOU, USCG inspections.  Turkey is a founding member of the Mediterranean and Black Sea MOUs.

Inspection of Turkish-flagged vessels on foreign ports is not a one-sided story; Turkey seriously inspecting all ships that calling her ports. . Turkish Maritime Administration undersigned the Mediterranean Memorandum of Understanding in 1997, followed by the Black Sea Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2000.

Foreign flagged ships calling our ports are subject to Port State Control inspections accordingly with mentioned MOU procedures and with the Port State Control Inspections issued in 2006.
  In 2003, 506 foreign-flagged vessels checking our ports in 2012, an increase of about 5 times the total foreign-flagged ships inspected in 2308.

SeaNews: Since December 2011, the Ministry of Maritime Transport merged with Under secretariat of Maritime and from then on, serving under the Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communications.  How do you see the new era compared to past?

Binali Yıldırım: As you have pointed out; since the 1st of November 2011, which is the reorganization date of Transport, Maritime and Communications Ministry, almost one and  a half-year period passed and, 6 General Directorates which my Ministry consists, 4 directly-2 partially deals with maritime issues;  began to work with a new enthusiasm and excitement of producing new projects.  As it is a widely accepted truth, maritime sector is an important piece of the whole transportation sector. Hence, the merge further strengthened ties of maritime sector within the other transportation sectors in the Ministry. Taking the advantages of being a Ministry, serving to the sector will be provided more quickly and more efficiently.
Colleagues intensively reviewing all maritime legislation, re-assessing conditions accordingly with current situations and needs of the country in accordance with international environment. As a result, we have the Ministry of Maritime Affairs of Turkey now. We raised the level of our maritime administration from Under secretariat  to Ministry. In doing so, some criticized us, but gathering all these units under same  roof, is the most basic requirement of an integrated transportation. As Turkey will grow in line with the 2023 targets, transportation sector certainly will take the lead in this growth.

SeaNews: What has been done for the Turkish shipbuilding sector which experience difficulties because of the excess supply of vessels in the world fleet and also due to fierce competition with Far Eastern shipyards deteriorated by high shipbuilding costs?

Binali Yıldırım: Unfortunately we live in a serious crisis in the world economy since 2009. Although our country’s economy has not been effected as much as  others  such as United States, European countries and the world’s major economies;  our maritime sector was not able to avoid this crisis due to its natural characteristics.

Low freight rates, imbalance between supply and demand of ships, falling ship prices, increasing ship supply due to shipbuilding orders that were  peaked during the 2004-2008 period created a pressure on our shipbuilding sector which experiences difficulties in receiving new orders and  continues to experience economic difficulties.

Resetting rents

Our Government provides all possible support in order to mitigate the difficulties faced by the industry and to  increase it’s resistance. The latest example of this is a law passed by Parliament last month, with which  rents paid by shipyards and boat building installations indexed to 1/1000 of their total revenues. This means that almost rents are reset.

Credit Guarantee Fund (CGF)

A further support is  the Credit Guarantee Fund (CGF). CGS supports the small and medium-sized enterprises by providing guarantees to, make it possible to use bank loans to finance investments and operations.
  With this application, so far; Our Ministry provided Beneficiary Certificate to
  - 11 firms as the ship builder,
  - 15 firms as ship management company,
  - In total to 26 firms (for 33 ships)
  Of  26 firms to which Beneficiary Certificate issued, only;
  - 10 companies applied to CGF for  19 ship investments;
  - Total amount of credit requested by 10 firms is TL 274.2 million,
  - Total TL 178.1 million of guarantee provided by CGF to these 10 companies.
  KGF application amended by a Cabinet Decision published in the Official Gazette dated 30.12.2012 2012/4095 s follows;
  -In the Maritime business loans, the grace period increased from 1 to 2 years and term increased from 3 to  4 years.
  - The grace period in the Maritime investment loans increased from 3 to 4 years ,
  -Applications term for guarantee has been extended until 31.12.2015.

Investment Incentives

Another support has been initiated in order to increase investment and employment opportunities in some regions to implement the tax and insurance premium incentives, providing free land enforced by Law number 5084, which is  “Law for the  Promotion of Investments and Employment and Amendments to Some Laws”. Law No. 5084, as well as many other industries in our country, has encouraged investment and employment in the ship-building industry. That has been beneficiary for those who provide employment by investing in shipbuilding sector.  These benefits, in particular has been in the form the allocation of free land, support for insurance premium, interest rate support, and of tax relief.
  In summary, as of today, many shipyards in the country has benefited from this incentive, they have been particularly the shipyards in the Black Sea region, as listed below:
  1 Çamburnu Shipyard (Sürmene/ Trabzon)
  2 Terme Shipyard (Terme / Samsun),
  3 Three shipyards in Tekkeköy (Tekkeköy / Samsun),
  4 K.Ereğli Shipyard (K.Ereğli/ Zonguldak)
  5 Iron Shipyard (K.Ereğli / Zonguldak)
  6 İnebolu Shipyard (İnebolu / Kastamonu).
  Other Incentives
  In addition, within the scope of new incentives to be provided to private sector by the Government under the Law number 5084, ship investments taken into the category of priority investments. Therefore ship investments can take  the advantages of  5.District supports.
  Ship investments which gained the investment incentive certificate can take the following advantages that applied to investments in the 5th District;
  a) Customs duty exemption,
  b) VAT exception,
  c) Tax reduction,
  d) Support for the employer’s share of insurance premium;
  e) Land allocation,
  f) Interest support (for investments in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th districts for investments),
  g) Income tax witholding support (for investments to be made in the 6th district),
  h) Insurance premium support (for investments to be made in the 6th district)

SeaNews: In line with the increasing number of schools in the Maritime Education field, how are the plans to solve the employment problem? How Do you evaluate the competitiveness of our country’s seafarers to export?

Binali Yıldırım: Maritime education in our country is provided at Faculties,  Vocational Schools, Technical Schools and Anatolian Maritime Vocational Schools, in compliance with provisions of “International Convention on the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping “ (STCW)

We already achieved compliance with Manila Amendments

As is known, the STCW 78 Convention was revised by a Diplomatic Conference convened at Manila in 2010 in order to meet  today’s technology needs of the sector and in order to serve the emerging needs in seafarers’ training,
While the mentioned changes were being considered, it was taken into account that content and purpose of 1995 amendments of STCW Convention is preserved, some of the discrepancies  and different interpretations that arise over time are clarified, technological innovations adapted, and the special frame need of the industry was also considered.

We are in the White List of  STCW

In this context, the Seafarers’ Legislation on training, examination and certification and quality standards, amended accordingly with  the above-mentioned provisions of the STCW 78 Convention; taking into account the changes made in 2010, and in full compliance. All these training activities are carried out in accordance with the provisions of the STCW Convention. We are in the WHITE LIST of  STCW Convention.

EMSA Report

Turkey successfully passed through a series of inspections carried out by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), an organization acting on behalf of European Union.

Approval of the report in question and Turkey’s listing in the White List of IMO enables Turkey to sign bilateral recognition agreements with other countries under the regulation I/10 of STCW Convention.

In this context, protocols were signed with 30 countries and competencies of Turkish Seafarers are recognized by EU countries such as Germany, Italy, Portugal, Malta and other countries having a large fleet of merchant vessels and Turkish Seafarers has the option to work in the fleet of such countries.

Our Ministry is aware of the necessity of cultivating the Turkish seafarers trained up to the international standards. For this reason, to ensure the  full implementation of the revisions of International Convention (STCW Convention), we are  making necessary changes to our national legislation to ensure the full implementation of international standards, and we will continue to fulfill all the requirements for education and training our seafarers will continue to move forward on this issue.
  Marinas are very important areas of social attraction

SeaNews: We know your efforts to improve amateur yachting. However, yacht ownership and especially finding an affordable place in a marina for middle-waged citizens does not yet seem very possible. Do you have plans on this matter?

Binali Yıldırım: This  is  one of the areas in which we made the most progress since our Government took office in 2002, compared with the status in 2002. One of the most neglected issues in the past is, unfortunately, the yacht mooring capacity.
A number of projects to increase the number and capacity of the marinas brought to life by Build-Operate-Transfer model and the total capacity increased to around 16,000 from 7000. With the  completion of planned and ongoing investments this capacity will reach to 25,000. We believe that the capacity which Turkey should have is 50,000.

The marinas that we build are not only marine tourism and water sports areas; they also contribute to the development of the harbor and the coastal cities and  by creating attraction they serve as areas of social life.

 We will further facilitate reaching to sea

However, we in parallel with the marinas, we carry out a range of projects which will facilitate to increase the number of slips, to build ramps in all coastal cities that enable sea lovers to slip their boats to the sea, and facilitating the access to and enjoyment of the sea.

SeaNews: In this issue our cover feature will be the topic of the future of our maritime sector. How would you forecast the maritime sector in 2023? Turkish flag is in the white list, we are a Council member of IMO; Turkish Lloyd continues to work on IACS recognition. Shall we be a better maritime country in the near future?

Turkey is a maritime country

Binali Yıldırım: What we need to do is to improve and glorify our maritime. In the 100th anniversary of the Republic, until the year 2023, by further improving existing practices, not only complying with the rules but also taking part in creation of the rules; having a word to say in all decisions taken in maritime field; taking the safety of life and property and environment as the first priority and, accordingly, being a leading country which others takes as example as one of the primary maritime nations of the world. This is Turkey’s aim…

We have the necessary  administrative, technical and operational knowledge and know-how and with the innovative steps we take,Turkey will continue towards the better and to the best.

We will become a member of Paris MOU
  One of our primary goals on the way to 2023, is the membership of Turkey to Paris MOU. Turkey, as a  Paris MOU member, could provide a great contribution to maritime safety in the region. We could completely get rid of so-called sub-standard ships. Turkey, as a single country, inspects approximately 2,500 foreign-flagged vessels per year. The number of inspected ships in the Paris MOU region of 27 members  is about 15,000 per year. So Turkey as a single country has capacity and equipment to carry out 15% of all inspections that Paris MOU member States do.

We volunteered for  IMO VIMSAS inspections

I would like to point out another issue which we can call as an important progress. Our Ministry, as Maritime Administration of Turkey, volunteered for IMO VIMSAS (voluntary) inspection mechanism. In September 2013 a technical committee designated by the IMO will visit our Administration to check  compliance with international norms. This is a process that will be  compulsory for all Member States after 2015. We applied for this inspection on a voluntary basis in advance.
  Our colleagues carrying out the necessary preparatory work. This is a remarkable project in terms of reflecting the self-confidence of our Ministry.

SeaNews: Seanews Magazine hits the road with the aim of  introducing Turkish maritime  to the international arena; as well as introducing the International maritime issues to Turkish agenda. Our starting point here is the international nature of the sector and due to that fact, necessity of a maritime magazine to provide this connection. How would you comment on this?

Binali Yıldırım: Your observation is very true. You can contribute to fill the gap in terms of publications in the maritime environment and with this hope, I wish you every success in your work.

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