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Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
European cruise industry: a vital contributor to the European economy
European Cruise Council 2009 Industry Conference
Rome , 19 May 2009.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be addressing your annual conference during European Maritime Day 2009. This is, of course, more than a happy coincidence. It proves that the cruise industry has embraced the guiding principles of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy, devised in response to the needs of maritime stakeholders such as you.
The Integrated Maritime Policy and the cruise industry alike can only succeed if they tackle opportunities and challenges in an integrated, cross-sectoral way.
Today's cruise lines are pushing the boundaries of technology. For this they depend on competent partners in the leading European shipyards, which in turn seek innovation-based partnerships in the marine equipment industry. Cruise lines are thus profiting from the focus on knowledge and innovation which European shipbuilders and the Commission have developed together under the LeaderSHIP 2015 initiative.
Cruising is part of the tourism industry, but it also remains a genuine shipping activity. So it must comply with the full regulatory framework for maritime transport, while delivering an enjoyable on-board experience to its clientele.
The cruise industry is doing this very successfully and continuing to display healthy growth the length and breadth of Europe. Europe's impressive coast, river and seascapes, unrivalled cultural wealth and fascinating varieties of lifestyles make it a genuine maritime continent. Moreover, they help make cruising and Europe a natural match – a fact recognised by Europeans and non-Europeans alike. A quarter of the cruise passengers embarking in European ports are not from Europe, which shows how attractive Europe is as a cruise destination.
So today we can proudly champion the importance of cruising to Europe's maritime activities. It provides work for our shipyards and marine equipment producers, employment in ports, coastal communities and the wider regions, and valuable economic benefits all around.
Our study into tourist facilities in ports has revealed the wide-ranging economic benefits of cruise industry activities. We need to build on this and remove remaining obstacles in order to integrate cruising with regional tourism in the best possible way. This is one challenge we are facing.
Other challenges include environmental protection and reconciling the interests of the various users of the maritime space. This is especially true of the Mediterranean, a prime destination for cruise tourism, where further efforts are required to ensure that, while cruise tourism grows, environmental impacts are kept to a minimum.
Cruise ship tourism in polar waters is another issue we must address. While the reasonable growth and diversification of economic activities in these remote regions of the planet is to be welcomed, it also brings challenges.
Binding international requirements for cruise ships navigating in polar waters are not yet in place. Moreover, as cruise vessel traffic in the polar regions increases, surveillance and rescue infrastructure, along with passenger safety needs, have become a growing concern.
Encouraging developments are underway here – not least the work of the Cruise Ship Safety Forum and the environmental and safety guidelines adopted unilaterally by many cruise ship companies operating in the polar regions.
But we must do more. We need to pursue our work on the relevant IMO guidelines. And we would urge cruise ship operators to pre-empt any general standards and to develop and share best practice.
Good regulation is an asset, because it provides planning security for economic operators. It can also establish best practice around the world, especially on the environmental front. The Integrated Maritime Policy contains a number of tools of relevance here, of which I will mention just three.
- Firstly, the promotion of shore-side electricity is an effective way to tackle local pollution concerns. I am optimistic that we will soon get the required impetus for investments to make shore-side electricity a reality in many ports, including in neighbouring countries in the southern Mediterranean. The Commission will address the issue of taxation, and the relevant standardisation bodies are close to an agreed standard for the ship-to-shore connections. This is not about imposing a technological option, but rather about moving forward on a very particular problem facing the cruise industry.
- Secondly, maritime spatial planning helps public authorities and stakeholders coordinate their actions and thus optimises the use of marine spaces to benefit both economic development and the environment. Cruising needs state-of-the-art port facilities and it derives a huge profit from unspoilt natural sites. Maritime spatial planning is, therefore, of great importance to the cruise industry.
- Thirdly, the current economic crisis also provides an opportunity for Europe to deploy its world-leading innovative capabilities to emerge after the downturn with new class of environmentally friendly ships. The Commission is therefore exploring the possibility of launching a "Clean ship" initiative. I would like to invite all of you to consider your possible involvement in such an initiative which aims at implementing new technologies to dramatically increase the environmental performance of all shipping activities, including of course also cruising.
These are just three examples of policy action that have come out of our Integrated Maritime Policy – a policy aimed at delivering concrete benefits to all stakeholders.
I would like to express my gratitude to the cruise industry for having worked with the Commission so productively in developing the European Integrated Maritime Policy.
This event is further evidence that we have found a good way of working together. I am confident that the cruise industry will continue to thrive, especially in Europe's waters, and will thus play a valuable part in Europe's economic recovery.