Lebanon and Integrated Maritime Policy
General presentation: Maritime facts
Many maritime issues are important to Lebanon. Although it has a relatively short coastline of 210km, Lebanon now claims both a 12-mile territorial sea and an Exclusive Economic Zone (recently registered with the United Nations in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). The coastal zone hosts four public commercial ports in addition to 29 private ports and port facilities, and maritime transport and ports are a major component of Lebanon’s maritime enterprise both for commercial trade and cruises/tourism. Tourism is also important in the coastal zone, where urban development continues. Other commercially and strategically important sectors include underwater cultural heritage (where Lebanon is known to have a rich resource) and offshore oil and gas extraction (17 potential oil fields have been discovered in the zone between Lebanon, Cyprus and Egypt). Some other sectors remain unexploited with unknown potential (mariculture, offshore renewable energy).
Maritime and coastal assets
Among the main maritime assets are:
- Maritime transport and ports: Maritime transport and port facilities are a major component of Lebanon’s maritime enterprise. Although it has a relatively small merchant fleet, the ports of Beirut and Tripoli remain important in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Fisheries: The fisheries sector is traditional or artisanal, and consists of relatively large numbers of small boats ( 5,507 fishing boats according to a 2011 census). Catches are not substantial – around 3,800 tons per year – but for some coastal communities, dependency on fisheries is high.
- Oil and gas: Potentially substantial oil and gas fields have been discovered in the zone between Lebanon, Cyprus and Egypt. The extent of these oil fields and jurisdiction over them has not been agreed by all coastal States. The oil fields are as yet not exploited by Lebanon.
- Marine and coastal cultural heritage: Lebanon is a key region in understanding the development and evolution of seafaring infrastructure and shipping, providing one of the richest and most continuous maritime archaeological records in the Mediterranean. Important geo‐archaeological work has been carried out at Beirut, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre all of which have a rich cultural heritage, both on land and at sea.
- Tourism: During the 1990s and the first part of the 2000s, tourism was a fast‐growing sector in Lebanon, but national and regional political situations have impacted negatively. The Lebanese tourism industry is seeking to rebuild Lebanon as a cruise destination, but faces strong competition from Greece and Turkey.
- Mariculture : There is a very small amount of mariculture taking place in Lebanese waters, mainly for local consumption.
The marine environment is subject to various threats, including uncontrolled urban expansion, increased privatization of public properties and beaches, reduced public access to the beach, solid waste dumping, wastewater discharges, sea filling, sand extraction, replacement of agricultural areas by human settlements, scattered industrial zones, etc.
Maritime and coastal policies
In 2012, a proposal was developed to establish a National Committee on Integrated Maritime Policy, which has the objective of overseeing the development and implementation of an integrated maritime policy in Lebanon. The proposal is currently awaiting approval from the Prime Minister. The Committee, composed of high-level representatives from all concerned ministries (approximately 12 ministries) will provide a forum for coordinating and consulting with the maritime sector, and will develop recommendations for the development of an integrated maritime policy.
Existing maritime policies in Lebanon are highly sectoral. In some cases, maritime components of sectoral policies are not well-defined, and some of the organisational and legal frameworks are out-date, incomplete or poorly implemented, although many laws exist. While some ministries have existing mechanisms for cooperation with other ministries and other stakeholders, in other ministries the mechanisms are soft or do not exist. Currently, there is no overall or integrated system for maritime governance or policy.
Outlook on the development of a national maritime policy
Lebanon has many maritime assets, a substantial body of stakeholders and considerable further potential to benefit from the maritime sector. Lebanon would benefit from the development of a national integrated maritime policy encompassing all the country’s maritime sectors and assets. The first steps towards this are being taken, through the establishment of the National Committee. The roadmap towards the development of IMP should consider the following priorities:
- Considering the long‐term role of the National Committee, and its relationship with Ministers, in directing future 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.