Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none

SPEECH/07/356












Jacques Barrot

Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Transport




European Port Policy






















Participation of Vice-president Jacques Barrot in the ESPO 2007 conference (European Sea Port Organisation)
Algeciras, 1st June 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As of 2000, Thomas Morus, the man for all seasons, is the holy patron of all politicians. I personally appreciate the reference to Thomas More in the title of your conference.

Throughout my political career I have learnt that in the long run cooperation should be preferred over confrontation.

After three years as a European politician, I consider this to be true also for European politics.

Therefore I want to convey my sincere thanks to all those who have contributed over the past year to our reflection on a European ports policy. The process was lively and rich and I believe it is rare for a sector to take its own future in hand as you have done over the past year.

I specially want to thank Mr Eddy Bruyninckx (Antwerp), Mr Manfred Reuter (Hamburg); Mr Manuel Frasquilho (Lisbon), Mr Rafael Aznar (Valencia), Mr Francesco Nerli (Naples); Mr Allan Kiil (Tallinn) who all kindly agreed to host a workshop in their premises . It is thanks to your hospitality that the six workshops could focus on key issues such as Port Services and Port Authorities (Antwerp), Port Financing (Hamburg), Development of Port Capacity, Environmental issues, inter-port cooperation (Lisbon), Labour issues, cargo-handling, technical-nautical services (Valencia), Logistics, hinterland connections, administrative services (Naples) and Relationship with non-EU Ports, Transport Flows, Image of Ports (Tallinn)

Where do we stand now

I believe, that the following "photo" of the existing situation on ports that emerged from the consultation and the debates is shared by all.

• First, the numerous European ports cover very adequately the European coastline and allow proximity of service to all European regions.

They are very different in management and size.

They will have to play their full role, as key hubs, in the logistics transport chain. Globalisation of trade and the manufacturing of new "mega-ships", but also the bottlenecks we face in road and rail, affect the traffic patterns in the sector. Evidently, an approach of “one size fits all” is not feasible, but all ports should, nevertheless, fully contribute to reaching the objectives of the Transport White paper "Keep Europe Moving” and the Lisbon agenda.

• Second, ports are not only faced with the challenge to meet the growing demand but also to cope with two types of technological changes:

- The first one of these is containerisation. This implies new terminal facilities with sufficient water depth and indeed an adequate transport network with the hinterland. This has an important effect on the relations between the port and city.

- The second one is the new e-technologies that will, on one hand, revolutionise and simplify the ship-shore interface and, and, on the other hand, bring all the maritime transport actors together in a single network; this will increase the output of ports making them a key element in the logistics chain.

• Third, stakeholders and the general public need to be more involved in port activities and port development. A dialogue, at an early stage, produces results on port investment and social relations.

Ports need our attention

There is no doubt that ports need our attention. World-wide container traffic has experienced an unprecedented growth with volumes doubling every decade. A number of major EU ports are estimated to run presently at around 95% of their capacity. At the same time, spare capacity is available in hundreds of other EU ports, but channelling sea traffic towards them remains a big challenge. They may, however, often offer a real alternative to congestion and hinterland bottlenecks. Productivity in many cases is very high, but it can be further improved per hectare of installations as a comparison with modern Asian ports shows.

But it is not only goods that pass through our port. We must not forget the ferry and cruise ships that serve 350 million passengers every year.

I take it from your consultation that we need to develop

- a vision,

- a toolbox

- a dialogue

The vision

Globalisation increases transportation and, consequently, congestion in transhipment facilities, such as seaports, and their hinterland. The possibilities to construct new infrastructure are limited and must be reconciled with environmental concerns. Investing, Innovating and simplifying port operations and optimising hinterland connections ,but also attracting qualified well trained Europeans to work in our ports, will be key to increasing port capacity in response to growing and more sophisticated transport needs. Our modern ports shall become key nodes in the transport chains they serve, attracting new types of Logistics operators and new types of investment. (Their relation with the city they serve shall become a new form of constructive partnerhsip attracting the local population) New forms of collaboration and burden-sharing between ports, modes and transhipment facilities, and partnerships between stakeholders should be studied. A level playing field will allow for the market to adapt in the most efficient manner and promote investment. The future port policy should provide a solid basis for creating "ports for all seasons"

The toolbox

Based on the vision we need to develop in a joint effort the tools necessary to implement it. This will require action and imagination on the part stakeholders and of regulators at national and European level .

Let me just pick out a few ideas from the debate, where European policy could lead:

1. Sustainable port development

• Environmental protection and port development need to go hand in hand because the environment that we live in is unique and has to be preserved. It is reassuring that ports are learning to manage this delicate balance that allows them to attract new investment for their development. I think that an early integration of environmental issues in port development projects is imperative and a key to success. Furthermore, before starting to construct new port capacity, all possibilities for further productivity gains in the existing facilities should be exhausted. More guidance and clarity is needed in terms of the environmental dimension of port development. I feel that establishing environmental guidelines for the application of environmental legislation to port development is an alternative that could be considered.

2. e-maritime, a tool for ports, but not only ports

• We need to have the ports benefit from the electronic age, to improve their competitiveness. As such, the current and future benefits of SafeSeaNet must be better known among the port communities. This system gives a lot of useful information on ship movements, ship positions and times of arrival and will facilitate the everyday management of any port. SafeSeaNet is only one part of the e-maritime initiative that I intend to propose in the course of next year. e-maritime is directly related to e-freight, to the ongoing e-Customs initiative.

3. simplification throughout the logistics chain

• We also need to look into creating a simplified environment for Short Sea Shipping and Motorways of the Sea. Initiatives, such as the single window, one-stop administrative shops, computerised administrative procedures will contribute to the single market in intra-EU shipping. The Working Paper on Motorways of the Sea later this year and the approach to implementing a Common European Space for Maritime Transport in 2008 will be important milestones in this process. I further think that regional co-operation and common strategies amongst ports and port authorities, within the limits of competition concerns, are key issues to adequately facing the challenges of tomorrow. Such an approach could encourage the development of feedering and related hubs, Short Sea Shipping, and Motorways of the Sea.

5. A level playing field- clarity for investors, operators and users

• Several stakeholders have expressed an interest in establishing State aid guidelines for port investment. This should enhance investment in the port area. While public financing for port access is mostly not considered as an issue, different views have been expressed on financing other facilities. In particular, public financing for superstructures, equipment and services may distort competition. I have taken careful note of all the views and I have asked my services to reflect upon establishing State aid guidelines in the next few months.

• I have also heard a wide backing for transparency in port financing. The existing transparency directive applies to ports but has little effect because it only applies to a small number of large EU ports having an annual turnover of 40 million euros or more. I think that we should study whether this directive could be extended to cover all ports, large and small.

• Transparency of tarification in ports was another issue under discussion during the consultations. General port tariffs are mostly publicly available in Europe and considered, by and large, competitive with the rest of the world. However, the payable charges themselves are very complicated. They need to be more transparent to the users. This is something that should looked into so that the port clients know exactly what they pay for and how much.

• Several contributions considered that new legislation might not be the best way forward in areas, such as tendering for technical-nautical services or stevedoring and other port services. Instead, the Treaty rules and existing legislation should be fully applied. An explanatory document geared to the specific and varied situations of ports in Europe might be means to better explain the implications of existing European Treaty rules.

• I share the concerns voiced by many contributors on competition with ports in third countries. In this respect we could reflect, first, on making an inventory of the problems encountered and, second, on addressing them in the external EU context and through our different aid or assistance programmes.

The dialogue

1. Promote social dialogue

• We need to encourage and enable a dialogue between all stakeholders about the present and future activities and developments in ports. Social dialogue is an essential component of this. I am especially pleased to see that trade unions and employers approach the new ports policy with a joint effort to formalise such a dialogue. I think that Europe could contribute to this dialogue by enhancing the training of port workers, for example, by establishing minimum requirements for training. In this context inspiration could come from Dunkirk which has developed a long-term social strategy together with the social partners.

• We also need to look into the culture of safety in ports and analyse

• losely the enforcement of health and safety rules at work.(,It is really unfortunate that during the consultation period we had a few tragic accidents in ports; the last one a few days ago in Algeciras with human lifes lost.This is a real concern for the workers and their families; We need to make sure that these rules are respected) 2. Promote the image of ports

• We need to promote a better image of ports and shipping in general. This can be done by organising port festivities, open days or similar activities to bring the local population closer to the port. Improving the image of ports and shipping will, no doubt, also contribute to raising public and professional awareness of this important economic sector and demonstrating that encouraging port development will generally lead to a more sustainable society. We must try to reconcile port activity with culture, sea-related tourism and city development at large.

In conclusion

A vision, a toolbox and dialogue, such are the ingredients of good policy making. Based on your contributions the commission will now work on a communication for a truly European Ports policy. This policy will form part of our overall new policy approach on logistics. I expect to present a text to the College of commissioners by mid October. Your continued input will be valuable to me throughout this process and also beyond.

Today's meeting has confirmed that Europe needs ports and ports need Europe! I am proud to be your Commissioner.

Thank you


Side Bar

My account

Manage your searches and email notifications


Help us improve our website