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Brussels, 15 September 2010
Informal Council Meeting to enhance waterborne transport role in the EU transport and logistic chain
Vice-President of the Commission Siim Kallas, responsible for Mobility and Transport, will attend the Informal Transport Council meeting organised by the Belgian presidency in Antwerp on 15 and 16 September. The agenda will focus on policy actions to better integrate waterborne transport into the EU's transport and logistics chains. This will include the role of ports, their cost-efficiency and necessary infrastructure improvements as well as the benefits of innovation and technology for harmonising and speeding up administrative procedures.
What will be discussed at the Informal Transport Council meeting?
Vice-President Kallas and transport ministers will discuss policy actions aimed at improving the interface between shipping, inland navigation, rail and road. The EU's internal market ends currently at the shores of EU seaports. Ways to accelerate the implementation of a true European maritime transport space without barriers will therefore be examined to allow for seamless transport of goods within the EU by sea and not only by land. In addition, policy actions to better integrate inland waterways within EU land and sea-based logistics chains will be discussed to further relieve congested roads.
Why is it important to strengthen waterborne transport in Europe?
Transport is an essential component of the EU economy, accounting for about 7% of GDP and for over 5% of the total employment in the EU.
A competitive and sustainable transport by sea and inland waterways is vital for European trade and industry. Waterborne transport represents 40% of intra-EU exchanges in terms of ton-kilometers while EU ports deal with 90% of Europe's international trade and 40% of intra-EU trade.
According to the European Environmental Agency, transport accounted for 23.8% of total GHG emissions and slightly more than 27.9% of total CO2 emissions in the EU-27 in 2006. The shift towards waterborne transport is therefore essential as waterborne transport is highly CO2 efficient.
1. Ports and infrastructure
What should be done to improve ports and infrastructure?
It is vital to avoid ports becoming bottlenecks of logistics chains hampering the smooth, efficient and reliable movement of goods towards the final consumer. Increased cooperation and interoperability between all relevant transport interfaces: seaports, inland ports and "inland terminals" (logistics centres buffering cargo loads especially from and to large sea-going ships) is of paramount importance to further integrate waterborne transport into efficient co-modal logistics chains. Ports need harmonised framework conditions also in competition and environmental aspects. The Commission is also examining the need to increase the cost-efficiency of ports and thus to reduce the overall costs of waterborne transport.
2. Administrative simplification of custom procedures
What should be done to harmonise and speed up administrative procedures?
The administrative simplification of custom procedures and other formalities is expected on the one hand to reduce costs and delays and on the other, to induce a significant modal shift from land to short sea shipping. The benefits for undertakings are estimated at €2.4 billion, which is probably an underestimated figure as it does not take into account the effect of modal shift. The Commission has proposed the establishment of a "European maritime transport space without barriers" and substantial progress has already been achieved, such as the new Customs regulation and port formalities directive. The Commission is now looking at new elements such as a single window for administrative procedures, the facilitation of third country calls and advanced electronic communication and information systems (as part of the "e-Maritime" initiative).
3. Innovation and technology
How could innovation and technology be used to make waterborne transport safer, greener and more efficient?
European industry has already developed a proven know-how in "green" shipping technologies which could help the waterborne transport sector to meet the mandatory targets for lower emissions and cleaner fuel. The Commission is paying particular attention to the need to accelerate the transfer of innovative technologies into operational ships and inland waterway barges. The Commission is also promoting research and innovation towards cleaner, safer and more efficient shipping and inland waterway transportation as increased energy efficiency will reduce emissions to the atmosphere from vessels.
Furthermore, Member States, together with the European Commission, are working actively within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reach an agreement on a market based instrument at global level to reduce CO2 emissions from international shipping.
What will be the next step?
In March 2010, the Commission proposed an overarching EU 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The strategy emphasizes the important role of the transport system in making the EU economy and internal market function, re-gain its strength in the aftermath of the crisis, and respond to new challenges. Waterborne transport is a vital component of the EU transport system and will thus be reflected adequately also in the upcoming White Paper on transport.
Facts and figures in 2008