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Brussels, 21 January 2009
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
 Source: ECOTEC study, for DG Maritime Affairs, 2006