Chemin de navigation

Left navigation

Additional tools

Autres langues disponibles: aucune


Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The future of ports - Part of our future vision for the Oceans and Seas

Address at the "Ports of the Future" GE and Port of Rotterdam Leadership Summit
Rotterdam, 28 June 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your invitation and for this occasion to present our vision of the future maritime policy for Europe's oceans and seas. Our ultimate goals - economic growth, more and better jobs and a higher quality of life in Europe's coastal regions - can only be pursued through innovation in maritime affairs. By this I mean: innovation in decision-making; in the way governments implement these decisions; innovation in the way we do business; innovation in the way we steer our maritime activities, and, of course, innovation in related science and research.

Given that innovation is an indispensable part of a European maritime policy, the combination of General Electric and the Port of Rotterdam as organisers of this event is most auspicious.

Shipping, as the main carrier of goods on the world market, is often referred to as the lifeblood of the global economy. Extending this analogy further, ports and their hinterland infrastructure, must therefore be its arteries.

Ports indeed play a central role in our economy. Although ports may originally have been built to simply load and unload ships, they have grown to become crucial industry and service hubs in a worldwide logistics chain. In turn, port cities have become prime locations for the sitting of industrial activities, for tourism and residential areas. Far from being dedicated to solely one activity, they have now become truly multi-functional. The Port of Rotterdam is an outstanding illustration of this.

The multi-functional role of ports and port cities means that ports' policy cannot be based on transport considerations alone. A broader perspective is a must. This needs to include environmental and regional development issues, as well as the relationship between the port and its host city, for example. In much the same way that ports deal with a multi-faceted reality so too does the maritime sector at large.

As our level of understanding concerning the complexities of the inter-relationships between maritime sectors rises, we have to ask ourselves one critical question: does today's approach give us the tools we need to guarantee a sustainable future for our oceans and seas?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would answer 'no'. No, we do not have the full range of tools that are needed, yet.

This has been confirmed in the results of the public consultation that followed the publication of our Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy, one year ago.

Our stakeholders have proved themselves to be both active and willing participants. The Green Paper was in fact discussed at more than 250 events and stakeholders have also shown a keen interest in working together to find common ground for the benefit of all. I'm sure that this free and open way of communicating will continue in the months and years to come.

Allow me to give you an overview of some of the main issues that we hope to address in the future maritime policy.

Given that the Union's external trade is growing, along with maritime transport, to unprecedented levels - container traffic alone is growing at 11% a year – there are a number of trends which need to be addressed by Europe. An example of this includes the demands that are being made of both the shipping and port industries for strong capacity development.

The need for energy sustainability and security of supply is another important challenge for the European Union. At present this will probably require more offshore oil and gas drilling in Europe's maritime areas, however our energy goals for future years, will also demand the development of offshore renewable forms of energy. Flexibility in our energy supply will probably also entail new thinking about the transport of oil and gas by vessels and through pipelines.

The forecast for the development of maritime transport: of ports, logistics and better connections to Europe's hinterland, along with the development of offshore energy and energy transport, constitutes an important opportunity for Europe's industries, in particular for shipbuilding, marine equipment and under-water technology industries. The Commission has therefore engaged in a dynamic dialogue with these sectors.

The development of so-called 'maritime clusters', which are helping to promote the maritime economy and maritime industries in a number of Member States and regions, will be the subject of particular attention by the Commission within the new maritime policy.

From what I have said, I believe it is clear that maritime industrial development is critical to Europe's economy. It does however also raise questions relating to the sustainability of our oceans and seas.

The Commission is determined to decouple the development of maritime activities and marine environmental degradation. We believe that the integration of maritime development and marine environmental policies, through the creation of a new, holistic maritime policy can make all the difference. We are in fact adopting the Thematic Strategy for the Preservation and Protection of the Marine Environment and the third Package on Maritime Safety as pillars of our work on this front. We are also working hard to decide how to tackle emissions, including working out the ways in which the Commission can contribute to foster carbon capture and sequestration, including in the seabed. 

Coastal and maritime tourism is another industry that is enjoying rapid growth. Apart from the obvious benefits, it is also an opportunity for coastal regions to promote a higher quality of life.

I believe that maritime industries and environmental protection can only be enhanced simultaneously if we resort more to marine science and technology. The 7th Research Framework Program and the Waterborne Platform are positive actions of the Commission to develop marine and maritime research, covering a broad spectrum and I believe that there is scope to be even more ambitious. The European marine scientific community, gathered in Aberdeen last week, issued a Public Declaration calling for a new European strategy for marine and maritime research. I welcome this concerted stakeholder position.

Europe's maritime transport industries also face challenges in the field of human resources, particularly when it comes to the recruitment of seafarers. There is widespread concern that the industry is not attractive to Europeans for a variety of reasons. It therefore falls to us to take action to promote labour conditions, improve training and encourage career mobility. The Commission will be addressing this in the new maritime policy.

Although we have looked at a number of issues that can be best dealt with by Europe herself, there are a number of other issues which will require action by the Commission together with her neighbours and other third countries. The neighbourhood policy and other initiatives and organisations can serve as useful fora within which to engage in dialogue with our partners and by which to give mutual effect to the international dimension of maritime policy.

Last but by no means least; the Commission has chosen to address an often-overlooked yet essential component of Europe: its maritime heritage. It is Europe's long and proud sea-faring tradition that gives us our strong maritime identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

So much for the general thrust of a future maritime policy.

But, more concretely, what about ports?

I see two parameters that we need to get right for ports to play their full economic part in the future. These are, firstly, a forward-looking policy framework and, secondly, development that is genuinely sustainable.

A stable policy framework for ports, their investors, workers and other stakeholders is essential. This is primarily to ensure the predictability that they need in order to make their long-term investments and engage in projects that will run over the course of the coming decades. One of the critical elements for this is the Commission's vision for port development which will be presented by Vice-President Barrot in autumn of this year. This will form an integral part of the new maritime policy and provide the much-needed long-term context in which ports can plan their future.

There is no other solution to port congestion than expanding port capacity. Europe is, however, already behind here. We have not followed the developments in world trade and traffic during these last ten years as aptly as those in Asia. So we need to do it now. Capacity can be increased by the rationalisation of activities within an existing space. But that option, can only take one so far. In a number of cases, the spatial expansion of ports or dredging of the sea to secure access to the port, will be the more obvious courses of action to choose.

Ports however have to compete for their space. Apart from numerous potential other users, appropriate spaces may have a high environmental value and require protection. Spatial planning can help with drawing up the future uses of space, a possibility which in turn, yields clarity about the viability and sustainability of development projects.

A forward-looking policy also has to respond to looming threats of a widespread nature such as the impact of climate change. A Maritime Policy should be designed to help coasts and ports stem the impacts of climate change. The protection of our coasts and their infrastructure deserves European solidarity as the responsibility for climate change is one we all share.

The second point I raised was about the sustainability of ports. The ports of the future must clearly be sustainable ports. Not only must they be equipped to meet future societal demands in terms of environmental protection but they must integrate sustainability thinking into their own operations. This is a potential source of opportunity that can be capitalised on.

Rotterdam has proved that it can be one such port. I would like to seize this opportunity to applaud Rotterdam's port authorities for making of Rotterdam a 'clean' port. The Green Award, originating from Rotterdam, has succeeded in coupling high standards for sustainable shipping with economic incentives. I regard the recent "Rotterdam Climate Initiative" and its ambitions to make Rotterdam the world capital of CO2-free energy as a real source of inspiration.

Some stakeholders have also suggested promoting the use of port facilities that help reduce air pollution, like, for example, the provision of shore-based electricity. Others, on the other hand, have expressed concerns about the negative effects of the Birds and Habitat Directives on port expansion, claiming that there is a need for more legal certainty and for ensuring that ports can fully play their economic role. We must deal with these concerns.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the coming months, the Commission will work hard to build the framework structure that will allow us to realise our maritime policy goals. This will not be about replacing existing sector-specific approaches with a single, central maritime policy. We are not talking about bringing together a series of directorates dealing with shipping, the marine environment or others, into a new super directorate-general for the seas and oceans.

Rather, we are searching for the best way to promote coordination, to foster collective decision-making and to gather the expertise, the ideas, and the best practice from the many different maritime domains. We are not overly-concerned with legislating. But we are concerned, yes, with bringing all decision-makers and stakeholders together to replace narrow, sector-specific views by a broad, all-encompassing vision of maritime affairs.

I think our one-year consultation process has proved beyond doubt that we are fully committed to listening carefully to what you have to tell us. We cannot disregard the views that have been expressed on issues to do with the role of the EU in the IMO, or the difficulty with setting up a European Coastguard or a European flag or ship register. We cannot ignore also worries that have been expressed concerning the formation of a common European maritime area, although we need to address the calls made to reduce barriers to maritime transport in Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We want; however, to set in motion a new form of joined-up governance that can bring about a more integrated vision on maritime affairs. We look forward to embarking on this new venture together with all those concerned about the future of the oceans and seas.

Thank you

Side Bar