Jordan and Integrated Maritime Policy
General presentation: Maritime facts
Jordan is almost entirely land‐locked and only has a small (27 km) marine coast to the Red Sea, centred on the town and port of Aqaba, and bordering Israel and Saudi Arabia (with Egypt a closely opposite country in the Gulf of Aqaba). There is no Mediterranean coast. Consequently, many maritime priorities are quite localised, and relate to development of the Aqaba region (e.g. through activities such as tourism, diving and protection of coral reefs), although the region is important economically for the whole country and many aspects of the maritime sector have national and regional implications.
Maritime and coastal assets
The maritime and coastal assets are a key economic and social component of the Aqaba region, and an important driver for the national economy.
- Maritime transport and ports: Jordan has one port, Aqaba, and the port industry is the predominant commercial activity in the maritime sector. It operates facilities to accommodate passenger, oil and cargo traffic, and LNG facilities are being developed. Currently plans have been approved to relocate much of the port (currently in the “downtown” area) to a location further south. The attraction of new vessels to the Jordanian registry is a stated priority for the maritime sector, although registrations have decreased in recent years.
- Environmental issues: The volume of traffic entering the Gulf of Aqaba is substantial and the lack of a local capacity to contain and control any significant accidental spills of oil is a major concern. Other environmental issues relate to marine pollution resulting from frequent small spills of oil and other contaminants. Recurrent spills around the ports are already associated with the degraded health of local reef ecosystems.
- Tourism: Tourism is the most economically important activity in the maritime sector, after maritime transport. Throughout Jordan tourism is a rapidly expanding industry, and with approximately 66% of Jordan's tourists visiting Aqaba (about 600 ,000 tourists a year), Aqaba is a major tourist centre. Coastal and marine activities are a significant part of the Aqaba tourism sector-most notably diving, but also beach access (there are growing numbers of hotels), the Marine Park and recreational sea activities. There is believed to be significant potential for the tourism industry.
- Fishing: A small amount of fishing takes place in the Gulf of Aqaba. Most of the fishing is artisanal with very small numbers of fishermen and small boats. There are no major storage or processing facilities available and so most of the catch is consumed or sold fresh in the markets.
- Marine and coastal cultural heritage: Despite ancient history, so far no submerged heritage sites have been detected in Jordan, since no excavations or surveys have been conducted.
- Sand and gravel: Sand and gravel extraction does take place, sometimes on a significant scale, when there is a development need. Regulation and impact assessment is limited.
- Biodiversity: The coral reef ecosystems in the Gulf of Aqaba are the most prominent feature of the marine environment in Jordan. The reefs are unique in that they are the northern‐most tropical reef system worldwide, have a high density of marine taxa and provide habitat for rare and endemic marine species.
Maritime and coastal policies
Jordan does not have a national maritime policy or national maritime governance framework. There is no overall national maritime vision, and maritime matters do not feature prominently in central government policies. This is largely because in practice responsibility for most maritime sectors is devolved to sub-national entities: the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) and, for maritime transport and ports, the Jordan Maritime Authority (JMA).
At the ASEZA level, there is some coordination internally between the different Directorates of ASEZA and externally with JMA, but not comprehensively. ASEZA has adopted a number of well-defined policies, in particular associated with the reregulation, management, and protection of the natural environment and which include coastal and maritime elements, and there are plans for the development and use of land and coastal areas. The ASEZA Master Plan includes several zones and reserves for the protection of Aqaba’s cultural, archaeological, historical and natural heritage and diversity. Areas (marine and terrestrial) include: five environmental zones, coral reserves, archaeological reserves, natural area reserves and a Beach Protection Zone.
Legislation exists for several maritime activities, but a common view amongst stakeholders (governmental and non‐governmental) is the need for clarification of the roles and responsibilities under the legislation and identification of gaps. A new framework maritime law is currently being developed.
Jordan claims a territorial sea of 3 mile and has signed maritime boundary agreements with Israel and Saudi Arabia (but not Egypt, with which it also share its maritime boundary).
Outlook on the development of a national maritime policy
Maritime assets are critically important in Aqaba, and being a key economic driver for a key economic region, are also important at the national level. As maritime assets are very concentrated, the need to manage them in an effective way, and in an integrated way, assumes high importance. Jordan would benefit from the development of a national integrated maritime policy encompassing all the country’s maritime sectors.
The first steps towards this are being taken, through the establishment of a Working Group to oversee the development of maritime policy. The roadmap towards the development of IMP should consider the following priorities:
- Creating an adequate governance structure at central governmental level (but potentially composed of appropriate representatives from national agencies and ASEZA) in order to provide national oversight of the national maritime policy;
- Taking stock of the country’s maritime administration, organisation and stakeholders, through a comprehensive mapping exercise at national level involving all maritime stakeholders, and in particular to clarify the roles and responsibilities of organisations in the maritime sector;
- Identifying the legislative gaps and inconsistencies, and developing improved maritime legislation;
- Improving coordination and consultation amongst all stakeholders as regards the development of policy and its implementation;
- Addressing the present gaps in knowledge (availability and accessibility) in the marine and maritime fields.
1st country visit
Jordan was visited in February 2011, with visits to government ministries and other stakeholders both in Amman and in the coastal region, Aqaba. Stakeholders from the main maritime sectors were consulted (transport, ports, coastal development, environment, tourism) and the IMP-MED team introduced the project and models for developing integrated maritime policy. At the same time, presentations were given to the IMP-MED team by the Jordan Maritime Authority and ASEZA on the key structures and processes in Jordan.
2nd country visit
Jordan was visited for the second time in September 2011. Two meetings were held – a project workshop, involving the main central ministries and other stakeholders from the Aqaba administration, and a second meeting with the Deputy Commissioner (Environment) of ASEZA. The visited presented an opportunity to introduce the project to several new participants, and to update other participants on progress and next steps.
It was noted that – particularly at the ASEZA level – Jordan was not starting from scratch on IMP, e.g. there were several comprehensive environmental policies, which had been developed with maritime stakeholder involvement, and which addressed the maritime component. Coastal zone planning had taken place, which addressed various marine issues, and a study on MSP was being planned. The workshop agreed, however, that there was interest in exploring IMP further in Jordan but that the issue would need to be discussed more widely with more stakeholders. There was particular interest in considering specific recommendations from the project on governance and inter-agency coordination. It was agreed that it would be useful to discuss these further at another workshop. There was also interest within ASEZA on developing proposals for concrete actions (e.g. establishing a maritime unit to coordinate the different sectors).