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Questions and Answers on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union

European Commission - MEMO/07/403   10/10/2007

Other available languages: FR

MEMO/07/403

Brussels, 10 October 2007l

Questions and Answers on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union

Why does the EU need a maritime policy?

The seas surrounding the European continent are a vital natural resource and a main driver of Europe's growth, jobs, competitiveness and prosperity. But new challenges and opportunities are changing the relationship that we have had with the ocean for centuries. Therefore, a new policy is needed to better address, in a coherent and comprehensive manner, the development of EU sea-related activities which are currently dealt with in a sector by sector manner. This new policy will allow the EU to benefit from the full potential of our seas and oceans, while ensuring their sustainable use. Enhanced coordination between sectors can prevent inter-user conflicts, minimise inconsistencies, avoid duplication and ensure maximum contribution from individual policies to the overall EU goals of growth, jobs and sustainability.

Some maritime sectors are already doing well. This is the case for shipping, for example. Why does it need a European maritime policy?

It is not a question of one or another sector needing a maritime policy. All sectors will benefit from it. The gains for shipping from an Integrated Maritime Policy would be:

  • It will give more prominence to maritime activities and to the environmental advantages of energy-efficient shipping;
  • It can help stress the importance of the global approach to maritime affairs, while ensuring that Europe plays its international leadership role to the full, ready to lead by example where necessary;
  • It will help reverse the decline in people ready to take up maritime careers.

Indeed, the crucial role of shipping in Europe in an increasingly globalised world has clearly been given prominence in the Maritime Policy. This policy is designed to maximise the benefits of inter-linking different aspects of Europe's maritime affairs. Shipping, as a strategic component of the maritime sector, makes a huge contribution to EU jobs, trade, and economic activity.

An integrated maritime policy will build on this strength to promote high-tech shipbuilding and marine engineering, to shift traffic from congested roads to short-sea shipping, to assure close contact with remote regions and islands. At the same time, it will help find the right balance between shipping, safety and security, and environmental protection.

In addition, the EU's leading position in world shipping cannot be taken for granted. It faces growing competition from abroad and serious challenges at home. EU shippers will invest in fleet renewal only if they are confident about the continued viability of the industry, and that depends on many factors ranging from capacity in EU ports to availability of skilled personnel, and from the health of Europe's foreign trade to the growth of short-sea shipping within the EU. At international level, a firm consensus on the importance of maritime interests will strengthen the EU's hand in negotiations for a level playing field on quality, safety and high environmental standards for shipping, and for market access for EU shipping services. All these factors are addressed in the Commission's proposals.

What will an integrated maritime policy do for Europe's ports?

The new policy will help the development of Europe's 1,200 ports. It will also help increase their contribution to Europe's prosperity and quality of life, not only on the coast but also in Europe's hinterland regions.

The coherent and long term view that the policy brings will assist in port planning and development. It will facilitate the capacity expansion needed by Europe's growing sea-borne trade by providing a predictable regulatory framework for investors and seamless logistics infrastructure. It will promote synergies with related advanced technologies in short-sea shipping, containerisation, liquefied natural gas, specialised marine engineering, high-speed ferry traffic, high-tech navigation and surveillance systems, or offshore energy or aquaculture - along with related training and research. It will underpin the role of many ports in driving local and regional development and job creation. And closer links with regional planning will help target appropriate aid for restructuring and retraining for declining ports.

At the same time, an integrated maritime policy will ensure that port development takes full account of social and environmental considerations - in everything from cutting exhaust emissions from ships in harbour to preserving coastal beauty spots. It will also provide a context for supporting local fishing communities, conserving maritime heritage, and promoting leisure ports and cruise shipping, along with related maritime tourism activities. Indeed, without the comprehensive view provided by the integrated approach to all maritime and coastal affairs, how can these different interests be harmonised?

How will the integrated maritime policy affect employment?

Sea based-activities already provide some 5 million jobs across Europe - in shipping and logistics, fisheries, marine science and engineering, off-shore energy, and tourism. The maritime policy will help ensure that the growth potential of this sector is tapped into so as to provide many more jobs.An integrated maritime policy will help arrest recent declines in seagoing employment and preserve Europe's maritime skills by building new links between training and job mobility, and by exerting pressure at international level for higher standards of shipping and better conditions for seafarers. Indeed, this is already demonstrated in the Communication presented by Commissioner Spidla together with the maritime policy package on reviewing certain exemptions that affect the rights of seafarers in European Labour Law. In addition, upgraded skills for European seafarers will make them more attractive to an increasingly high-tech shipping industry.

On-shore too - where more than two-thirds of maritime-related employment is located - skills are increasingly in demand, and the new policy will both promote innovative maritime industries and technologies, and help focus training and conversion from maritime sectors with declining employment, such as fisheries. The increased attention that the policy will bring to links between environmental protection, marine biology and blue biotechnology, and climate change and mitigation of its effects will also generate new employment demands in science, in planning, and in engineering.

Why do we need an integrated maritime policy as well as a thematic strategy on the marine environment?

The Commission's Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment is a crucial component of the new integrated maritime policy. The new policy creates a broader context which will ensure a firm link between actions to preserve the marine environment and all other related policy areas. This will improve the chances of the Marine Environment strategy achieving its aim of upgrading the status of the EU's seas by 2021.

The new policy's aim of ensuring the economic potential of the oceans and seas is realised in harmony with the marine environment is fully complementary to the aim of the Marine Environment strategy. Because the new strategy is comprehensive, it will not only promote growth, jobs and quality of life: it will also reinforce attention across all sectors to the crucial role of the oceans and seas in maintaining life on earth, and in regulating climate and weather.

So, in tackling marine pollution, the new policy will bring the overlapping interests of coastal populations and maritime activities together with the upstream sources of pollution from far inland - from towns, from industries, and from chemical run-offs from agriculture - and will promote planning, research and technologies that reduce or reverse damage. The resulting innovations will not only improve the marine environment and raise the quality of life, but will also provide a boost to Europe's employment and exports. Similarly, promotion of short-sea shipping between EU ports will ease congestion and pollution on Europe's roads while support for offshore renewable energy generation or investigation of submarine carbon capture will contribute to meeting targets in energy and climate policy.

The new integrated maritime policy will also give the EU a stronger voice in international discussions on shipping standards and safety, on fisheries management, on rights and responsibilities in the rapidly-evolving disciplines of sea-bed exploration, and in negotiations on how to counter global warming and climate change.

How does a maritime policy help innovation?

Europe is already the world leader in maritime technology and innovation. Without innovation, it will not be possible to decouple growth in maritime activities from environmental degradation. This is why the Commission pays so much importance to the need for science, research and knowledge as drivers of the integrated approach to maritime affairs. There is no doubt that the sector's rich potential for further breakthroughs in science, research and technological and industrial development can be maximised by a comprehensive maritime policy.

European expertise - in pollution control and clean engineering, in renewable marine resources, in sustainable offshore exploitation of hydrocarbons, or in coastal engineering - is a vital ingredient of the integrated maritime policy, which aims to develop it through research and investment, and by bringing together natural and socio-economic sciences, both in the public and private sector. European innovations will also allow informed policy choices, to prevent the degradation of the marine environment, to counter the effects of climate change, and provide for improved quality of life in a society of wider opportunity.

The integrated maritime policy's concept of an integrated data network and closer links among policy makers, industry and research could overcome fragmentation of maritime-related investigation, and help Europe maximise the opportunities in such diverse and promising fields as high-tech shipping or ocean-based biotechnology. This will promote innovations that cut marine pollution and prevent maritime accidents, offer better analysis, prediction, and solutions for Europe's coastal regions, exploit renewable sea-based energy technologies, and deliver new jobs and wealth through novel forms of nautical leisure and tourism.

How can an integrated maritime policy ease Europe's energy needs?

The scope for synergy between Europe's energy and maritime policies is significant and increasing. They both aim for an integration of economic development and environmental protection, and together they will allow a better exploration of the geopolitical value of Europe's oceans and seas for energy security and sustainability.

On the one hand, the seas around Europe permit diversification of energy transport routes both via shipping and via submarine pipeline networks and electricity interconnectors, thus reducing Europe's dependency on external suppliers. Shipping provides energy-efficient and flexible transport for most of Europe's foreign trade, as well as for most of its energy imports. More than 80% of current European oil and gas production is drilled offshore. The maritime areas of Europe are important for carbon-free energy generation, with the rapid development of offshore renewable sources of energy, and the seabed's potential for carbon capture and storage.

On the other hand, the energy sector is a leading investor in advanced maritime technologies and the underlying innovation and research, which contributes expertise, jobs and growth to the maritime sector in Europe. The integrated maritime policy will promote the long-term and large-scale investments needed in marine-based energy infrastructures and resources - particularly when these involve several Member States and innovative technologies, and provide the knowledge of impacts and assessment of risks for energy investments through data and observation networks and maritime spatial planning.

How effective will an integrated maritime policy be in the international sector?

One of the principal justifications for a strong and comprehensive integrated maritime policy is the global nature of the seas. What happens elsewhere in the world - a decline in fish stocks, decreasing pay or qualifications of professional seafarers, subsidising of competing shipyards, piracy, terrorism, or environmental damage contributing to climate change - impacts on Europe too. So Europe, as a major world player in so many maritime sectors, needs to ensure that it exercises its influence in international fora. In shipping, fisheries, off-shore exploration, underwater technology, marine research, environmental protection and many other areas intimately linked to maritime affairs, Europe needs to ensure that international decisions on maritime issues are of the highest quality.

The new policy will help Europe attain a twofold objective: to keep the world market open and stable for the international sea-borne trade system, and to guarantee EU shipping operators a level playing field world-wide. Europe's resources in international negotiations, external relations policy, dialogue with neighbouring countries and development cooperation can all play their part in the framework of a clear maritime strategy, in assuring standards of maritime safety and marine environmental protection, in removing unfair subsidies in world shipbuilding, or preventing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries and discards (throwing unwanted fish back into the sea, dead)
See also:

http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/index_en.htmlSee also IP/07/1463.


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