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Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime
ECASBA Annual Seminar on the implementation of the Integrated Maritime
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your kind invitation to be here. It is always a pleasure to meet with you and discuss matters of interest to us all.
In your role as ship brokers and agents you have the direct experience of daily contacts with companies and individuals from various key maritime sectors. I appreciate that this can be both a stimulating and yet also a difficult role to play given that being the "middle man" also has its fair share of frustrations, complications and obstacles.
The integrated approach to maritime policy that we have launched is about facing these challenges head-on, by looking at the maritime sector as a whole rather than as a collection of individual, distinct parts. It is about creating the kind of cross-sectoral co-operation and synergy that will make Europe's maritime environment a friendly hub for business, research, science and conservation whilst stimulating Europe's ability to be competitive on the world stage - the ultimate aim being to bring growth, employment and prosperity to coastal communities.
Having said this, I would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to speed with developments that have been underway to implement our flagship policy, with particular reference to issues of immediate concern to you.
In the spirit of the dialogue that has characterised our relationship to date, I would like to continue discussions with you and to thus benefit from your vast experience.
Before I come to some of the specific messages you gave in your contribution to the Commission's Green Paper discussion on a European vision for our oceans and seas, I would like to reiterate that one of the overarching goals that we share with you is to make our maritime sectors as competitive as possible. We believe that strengthening links between key partners, including the scientific community, employers, the education sector and policymakers, is a vital foundation on which to build. Our Integrated Maritime Policy will reflect this need.
In this way we can blend together vital ingredients for competitiveness – by which I mean research, innovation and excellence – and produce a coherent maritime policy that facilitates business development. Moreover, given the very international nature of the industry in which you operate, we are sure that you will be able to benefit from the strong international component that exists within our maritime policy. We want to maintain Europe's leading role in the world, in particular in the maritime world, and to safeguard its interests in the highly competitive global environment.
Three aspects which we view as being crucial to European competitiveness are an efficient ports environment, the implementation of the maritime cluster concept and a highly skilled workforce. These are all areas that are receiving much attention from the Commission with a view to building and having the necessary tools in place in the short to medium term.
With regard to developing an efficient ports system, the Communication on a European Ports Policy – on which you submitted a number of valuable points – is an attempt to apply an integrated approach to ensure that we have efficient and smoothly-operated ports.
Insofar as clusters are concerned, we believe that grouping similar and related industries together holds the key, not only to increasing competitiveness, but also to promoting a European maritime identity and maritime jobs.
This latter point ties in directly with our aspirations, and to the need to have a highly skilled maritime workforce - a concern which I believe you share. It will involve enhancing careers for young people by offering them lifelong employment opportunities within a maritime cluster, which will enable them, if so desired, to switch between land and sea-based jobs, according to their particular circumstances, at any one time. This will also provide them with the variety of qualifications and skills that will equip them to cope with the increasingly high-tech demands of the industry. In this particular sector, the relevant buzzwords will most certainly be 'quality combined with flexibility'. The idea is that, with employers able to dip into a pool of well-trained and adaptable potential employees, we will be in a position to raise standards across all maritime sectors and to extend the competitive edge that we need, to remain ahead.
On all three of these aspects, we are relying on ECASBA to continue to make a significant contribution.
This brings me to another initiative in which we would very much value your expert feedback, namely that of creating a barrier-free European Maritime Transport Space.
As you know, the Commission conducted a consultation process on this, last year. It seems to us that maritime transport is at a disadvantage in relation to other transport sectors in terms of the number of procedures it is required to undergo. This is almost ironic given that it is far more energy-efficient and thus, certainly, it should be the way forward for most of our transport needs. Your familiarity with all aspects of transportation makes you well-placed to give us your input on the many administrative hoops through which you are still required to jump, and to advise us on ways in which we can cut red tape and simplify procedures, wherever feasible. We are aware that it is only in this way that maritime transport can play its rightful role in the overall transport mix.
There are other areas in the Commission's ongoing work which will be of interest to you, particularly in light of some of the specific issues you raised in your contribution to the Green Paper and which then fed our deliberations in preparation of the Blue Paper. I invite you to discuss these issues in greater depth with my Services who will still be here tomorrow.
However, allow me now to touch on a couple of the more prominent of your concerns as these centre on a number of concrete issues - namely: research, renewable energy, international conventions, short-sea shipping and vessel-tracking systems.
I shall tackle each of these in turn.
As regards research, we are very close to adopting a Communication on the first-ever European strategy for marine and maritime research. A key goal of this new Strategy will be to assist the development of the integrated maritime policy by creating the conditions that will generate an interface between science and policy.
Creating such an inter-linkage will reach a two-fold objective: on the one hand, it will let science inform policy; and on the other, it will let policy strategically orient science in the direction of Europe's main challenges and societal needs. This will necessitate an ongoing dialogue between science and policy.
In the current times of concerns over climate change and fuel prices, such a fusion of policy and science can only help us in our search for viable alternative sources of energy. The Commission is doing much on this front and, only recently, it has launched a consultation process on offshore wind energy that will conclude on 20 June. It has also set a number of targets to be met for the use of renewable energies by 2020, which member states are working hard to achieve.
As part of our efforts to simplify and streamline regulation, we are also acutely aware of the need for a stable regulatory framework in the shipping and ports sectors. That is why we are conscious of the need to work with our international partners within the appropriate fora wherever possible. It is also what motivates us to take action at an EU level in those few cases in which we feel that international co-operation does not best serve Europe's interests. Having a strong international framework backed up, where necessary, by our own legislation is, we believe, the optimal way to achieve this.
Short-sea shipping features prominently in the project for a European Maritime Transport Space that I mentioned earlier. We consider it a good means of alleviating the traffic burden on the roads, thereby contributing to Europe's environmental goals. Another priority is maritime surveillance, on which we have two projects in the pipeline - one covering cross-border cooperation among national authorities and the other on satellite tracking.
This year, on 20 May, we also celebrated the first European Maritime Day. This landmark event owes a great deal to the unprecedented interest in maritime affairs shown by so many stakeholders. I can safely say that stakeholders have been – and remain – pivotal to the development and implementation of the EU's integrated maritime policy. With your unparalleled know-how, you can help us greatly to mould the policies that today's fast-moving pace demands of us.
The Maritime Day initiative was expressly designed such a purpose. It was conceived to celebrate Europe's rich maritime dimension whilst simultaneously stimulating new ideas for it to develop further and flourish. It also reflects our intention to continue to listen to, and act on, the views expressed by you, our stakeholders.
Implementing the European Integrated Maritime Policy is as complex as it is multi-faceted.
We therefore, need to work together, as we have done to date, to make it a success.
The approach we have taken thus far has already proved beneficial in so many ways. I am convinced that in pursuing this approach we can look forward to a more competitive, safer, better-organised and more forward-looking maritime sector.