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Brussels, 21 January 2009

The European Union's maritime transport policy for 2018

For Europe, shipping has contributed largely to economic growth and prosperity all along its history. At the start of the 21st century, the maritime transport system is at the forefront of the globalisation process and has provided the vehicle for an unprecedented growth of world trade and industrial and commercial interconnections in the world economy.

In terms of volume, 90% of the freight exchanges of Europe with the rest of the world are seaborne. Maritime transport services, including off-shore activities, are essential for helping European companies compete globally. Among EU Member States, short sea shipping is a key element in reducing congestion, ensuring territorial cohesion and promoting the sustainable development of the European continent. With more than 400 million sea passengers a year travelling through European ports, passenger ships and ferry services have a direct impact on the quality of life of citizens in islands and peripheral regions.

Shipping represents one of Europe's largest export industries, providing deep sea transport services between Europe and the rest of the world, as well as in cross trades between third countries. European shipping is present in all segments of the sector in all regions of the planet. Transport of freight and passengers at sea generated € 24.7 billion in 2006 as a net contribution to the EU balance of payments. In terms of added value, traditional maritime sectors represent a share of 1.09% in the total GDP of the EU-27 and Norway. Maritime transport activities' related employment in Europe amounts to 1.5 million people. Some 70% of shipping related jobs are onshore – in shipbuilding, naval architecture, science, engineering, electronics, cargo-handling and logistics.[1]

Challenges and opportunities for maritime transport in the next 10 years

The continuous success of European shipping in world markets cannot be taken for granted. A number of major challenges have been identified by experts consulted by the Commission. The current crisis of the international financial system, its impact on the real economy and the sluggish recovery prospects in different parts of the world have affected seaborne trade and thus the different branches of the shipping industry.

Moreover, recent developments in the energy markets, including the cut of pipelines for gas supplies, have underlined the strategic importance of LNG tanker-ships for ensuring a stable and long-term solution to guarantee reliable energy supplies to the EU. In a wider context, those developments remind the importance of the fleet, in all its branches of activity, for the well being of the European citizens and of the European economy as a whole.

Operators involved in the provision of maritime transport services and the European maritime transport as such will face significant challenges in the years to come. They will have to cope with the fluctuations in sea-borne trade, the negative impact of the financial crisis and other external factors, such as the risk of overcapacity in certain market segments, the rise of protectionist measures affecting world trade, environmental concerns related to climate change, volatility in energy and other commodities markets and loss of European maritime know-how because of the scarcity of skilled human resources.

Moreover, competitive advantages given by third countries to shipping businesses entail a real risk of de-localisation of head offices and maritime industries outside Europe. Often the position of European operators is undermined by unfair competition, which results from lax enforcement of safety, security, environmental and social standards in certain parts of the world. Achieving effective governance of maritime affairs and an international fair level playing field for maritime transport remains a crucial challenge to the global community.

Strategic options at European level

The EU's sustainable transport policy aims at addressing the economic, social and environmental needs of our society. An efficient maritime transportation system is essential for Europe’s prosperity, having significant impacts on economic growth, social development and the environment.

In autumn 2007, after having consulted the main stakeholders of the sector, the Commission started a strategic review of the EU's integrated maritime policy, examining also the challenges European and international maritime transport will face in the next ten years.

This work has included the conduct of a prospective study analysing trends and signals of change in the maritime sector (the so-called 'shipping scenarios' for 2018). It has also involved consultation with experts from maritime administrations in the Member States and Norway, as well as advice from a group of senior industry leaders representing different interests within the maritime transport industries.

The prospective study "Benchmarking strategic options for European shipping and for the European maritime transport system in the horizon 2008-2018" can be downloaded from the following address:

The three basic shipping scenarios for the year 2018 ("Asian Phoenix", "Break Point" and "Global Fissures") are briefly described in annex.

The recommendations of the group of senior shipping professionals (see IP/08/760 of 19/05/2008) present an industry opinion on the more urgent issues to be addressed and on the way the EU could intervene. The recommendations can be downloaded from:

In both cases, two major issues guided the reflection:

  • By 2018, European shipping transport services should be at least as efficient, reliable and sustainable as today. There should be sufficient transport capacity available and the port and port hinterland capacities should be able to cope with increased cargo volumes.
  • By 2018, the shipping industry should be at least as competitive as today, and have an equally strong or better position on the global markets.

Strategic recommendations

Several important conclusions come from this strategic review exercise. First of all, the recovery of the world economy from the current financial crisis would lead to a growth in international trade and will require a maritime transport system able to deliver advanced logistic solutions. Moreover, in a recession period, short sea shipping is a perfect vehicle for stimulating intra-EU trade exchanges and thus supporting recovery of growth in the EU and its neighbouring countries.

Overall, the next ten years may offer a unique opportunity to reinforce the competitiveness of European shipping, and to strengthen its contribution to the objectives of a sustainable European transport policy.

The strategic recommendations concern seven main issues:

  • Competitive European shipping: The priority is to achieve and maintain an attractive framework for quality shipping and quality operators in Europe including financial measures. This will help maritime transport achieve sustainable development goals. Such a framework would also help the sector adapt to adverse financial conditions and to the slow-down in growth of the world's sea-borne trades.
  • Human Factor: There is a genuine European interest in making maritime professions more attractive to young people and thus improving employment of seafarers. Positive measures may include facilitating life-long career prospects in the maritime clusters; enhancing the image of shipping; supporting the work of international organisation (IMO and ILO) on fair treatment of seafarers; and implementing simplification measures which aim at reducing the administrative burden on masters and senior ship officers.
  • Greener Maritime Transport: The EU should encourage all actors to promote green solutions in maritime transport. The Commission, the Member States and the European maritime industry should be working together towards the long-term objective of "zero-waste, zero-emissions". The measures announced in the Greening Transport Package should be fully implemented.
  • A safe and secure system: We should give priority to the enforcement of existing Community and international rules and the speedy implementation of measures introduced with the 3rd maritime safety package. The work already started should be completed by establishing a comprehensive framework for security measures in terms of prevention, reaction capacity and resilience.
  • International Scene: The global challenges faced by the shipping and maritime industries demand convincing answers from the international community. The Commission and the Member States may be a real driving force for change towards a comprehensive international regulatory framework for shipping, adapted to the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Short Sea Shipping and Ports: Further economic integration of the EEA Member States and of the neighbouring countries will have positive impact on maritime transport connections within the EU. It should be noted that sea-trade normally grows even in periods of business contraction. In the 2018 horizon, the European economy should recover from the current stagnation. Positive measures in support of short sea shipping should also help intensify sea-exchanges in all the European maritime façades. These measures will include the creation of a European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers the full deployment of the Motorways of the Seas but also the implementation of measures for port investment and performance. In all cases, the principles of open markets, fair competition and greening transport should be respected.
  • Innovation and technological development: The competitiveness of the European maritime industries and their capacity to meet the environmental, energy, safety and human challenges is positively influenced by increased efforts in research and innovation. There is wide scope for improving energy efficiency in ships, reducing environmental impact, minimising the risks of accidents or providing better quality of life at sea. In the years to come, innovation and technological research and development in shipping should be further promoted. A framework of reference should be introduced for the deployment of "e-Maritime" services at European and global levels.

The Communication on the EU Maritime Transport Strategy 2018 is addressed to the European Parliament and the Council. In the light of their opinion and conclusions, the Commission will continue to look for concrete ways to implement the recommendations. This work will involve close cooperation with all interested parties


The significance of the European Maritime Transport Space without barriers

In maritime transport, voyages from one port of an EU Member State to another are always considered international even when the cargo transported consist of goods in free circulation ("Community goods").

A vessel is considered to leave the customs territory when it leaves a Community port for another Member State port with a consequence that maritime transport of goods is subject to complex administrative procedures that decrease its attractiveness for the transport of Internal Market goods.

The European maritime transport space without barriers is a concept which extends the Internal Market wider to intra-EU maritime transport through the elimination or the simplification of administrative procedures in intra-EU maritime transport, in order to enhance its attractiveness and reinforce its efficiency and competitiveness, and contribute to a higher protection of environment.

To implement this concept, the Commission identified a series of measures, which are described in the parallel Communication "establishing an EU Maritime Transport Space without barriers". Those measures are:

  •  Elimination of systematic controls and documentary requests by Customs for goods carried by sea between EU ports in line with inland transport. The measure will require a modification of the implementing provision of the Community customs code early in 2009 and should be in force by 2010.
  • Concerning the legislation on veterinary and phytosanitary products, guidelines should be adopted in 2009 in order to speed up the documentary checks in Directives 89/662/EEC , 90/425/EEC and 2000/29/EC .
  • Rationalisation of vessel-related and goods-related reporting and forms required by Directives 2002/6/EC (formalities for vessels at the arrival/departure of ports), 2000/59/EC (waste and residue reception), 2002/59/EC (vessel monitoring) and Regulation (EC) N° 725/2004 (maritime security) through a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council attached to the Communication.
  • Further enabling measures would also need to be implemented, namely:
  • Examining the possibility to grant facilitation to ships sailing between Community ports but making a call in a port located in a third country or a free zone;
  • Enhancing the electronic transmission of administrative data through the deployment of e-maritime systems;
  • Setting-up an administrative single window;
  • Evaluating the feasibility to recognise the equivalence of maritime rules and rules for road/rail for the carriage of dangerous goods in view to facilitate intermodal transport.

In addition, recommendations should be given that Member States implement further enabling measures, each time the local conditions permit to do it in an efficient manner, namely:

  • To coordinate the inspections carried out in the ports by the various administrative services;
  • To extend the scope of Pilot Exemption Certificates;
  • To facilitate administrative communication;
  • To create areas in ports dedicated to Short Sea Shipping where that can facilitate the operations for this mode.

The administrative simplification is expected to reduce costs for undertakings and to induce a significant modal shift from land to short sea shipping which will bring environment benefits and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases emissions. The benefits for undertakings was estimated at 2.4 billion €, which is probably an underestimated figure as it does not take into account the effect of modal shift.

[1] Source: ECOTEC study, for DG Maritime Affairs, 2006

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