Algeria and Integrated Maritime Policy
General presentation: maritime facts
Algeria is the largest country in Africa and also has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Sea with a total population of 37.1 million.
Algeria’s coastline stretches over 1300 km; it is located between the Gibraltar Strait and Sicily on the maritime road connecting Suez to Gibraltar.
Algerian maritime and coastal challenges
Maritime challenges are very important for Algeria’s economy and general development:
- Maritime transport and security: most imports and exports (oil and gas) are made by sea, Algeria is very close to the main maritime road of the Mediterranean (Suez-Gibraltar);
- Tourism: it is not well developed in Algeria, but real opportunities exist to boost this sector (coastal tourism, cruise ships, pleasure activities);
- Coastal area: the most important economic development areas are concentrated in the coastal areas especially in the most active seaside cities;
- Offshore oil and gas resources may soon be exploited on the Algerian continental shelf;
- Fishing does not constitute an important activity, but represents a crucial resource for coastal areas: there are specific plans for the development of fishing and aquaculture;
- Marine environment represents a major asset in addition to coastal and submarine resources.
Several maritime and coastal threats and risks have been identified mainly concerning biodiversity, water quality, climatic changes, coastal risks, growing urbanization, industrial pollution, smuggling and illegal fishing activities.
Algeria: Maritime and coastal policies
Algeria has not yet developed a holistic or integrated maritime policy.
Nevertheless, a dedicated national maritime governance structure was created at the Government level (Sea Higher Council) in 1998; this structure has not been activated, though it may efficiently support the development of a national integrated maritime policy. There are no conventional governance systems (national forum, national maritime council, etc.) involving maritime stakeholders in decision making and implementation.
Most traditional maritime activities are based on explicit and formal sectoral strategies implemented by specialized sectoral agencies, relying on comprehensive legal frameworks, generally including an environmental assessment study at the level of projects, but rarely constitute strategic environmental evaluations at the level of policies, plans or programs. However, sectoral maritime policies are not entirely coherent at the strategic and operational levels.
There is good cooperation and coordination at the operational level in some specific areas such as maritime surveillance and sea police activities.
No national policy has so far been defined in terms of marine or maritime knowledge or in the control and supervision of the maritime environment and activities. Maritime challenges are considered only partially in the very comprehensive country development plan and in corresponding planning instruments (national territory development plan). Integrated cross-sectional approaches and instruments are currently being developed (ICZM).
Algeria has not created exclusive economic areas. There are agreements to demarcate the continental shelf. Algeria is part of all main international maritime agreements (international maritime organization, Barcelona Convention …)
Outlook on the development of a national and integrated maritime policy
The Algerian context is very favorable for the development of a national and integrated maritime policy.
There are still some pitfalls in terms of the knowledge of maritime resources and marine environment that still need to be developed and reinforced before making full diagnosis of the national maritime situation in the regional context.
Prospective work at the national level involving all maritime stakeholders will likely be necessary to identify opportunities, threats and possible evolutions, and to enable the design of a mid and long term comprehensive national maritime strategy, that would bring together different sectoral strategies and cope with regional strategies.
Most sectoral and spatial maritime strategies associated with the national integrated maritime policy may be implemented based on the comprehensive national planning instrument referred to as the “National Territory Development Plan” (SNAT).
1st country visit
Algeria was visited in late February / early March 2011. The IMP-MED Project team was welcomed by the Ministry of Transport, which organized a series of visits to most of the main maritime central administrations : Ministry of Transport (ports, safety…), Environment (country planning, coastal zones…), Fisheries, Defense (coastguards and maritime affairs…). The project team presented the project and was presented by Algerian counterparts with a review of the national administrative and legal setup.
The visit also initiated interesting discussions on the way to give more importance to maritime issues in Algeria, and to progress towards better co-ordination of sectoral policies and sectoral actions. The “Haut Conseil de la mer”, the “Schéma National d’Aménagement du territoire” and the National Service of Coastguards were put forward as good examples of governance structures, strategic and operational tools which could be used to develop and implement a national integrated maritime policy in Algeria.
2nd country visit
The second country visit to Algeria took place in July 2011, with support of the EU Delegation and with the participation of the EC (DG MARE). A series of meetings were organized with central administrations (transport, fisheries, environment) and agencies (Commissariat National du Littoral) which allowed a better understanding of the country’s administrative and legal “toolbox”, and exchanges on the various ways of building on this favorable context to develop the national policy. The national coastguard service was presented to the projevt team and delegation as an interesting example of integrated operational tool designed to contribute to all maritime policies, whatever the ministry concerned.
There was strong support for the idea of organizing a national IMP workshop in Algeria, and specific discussions took place concerning the potential technical assistance the IMP-MED project could provide in order to allow Algeria to define their own integrated maritime policy and to be able to play an proactive role in the development of the IMP in the Mediterranean.