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Siim Kallas

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for mobility and transport 

Challenges for maritime transport

European Maritime Day, Gdansk

19 May 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you in the historic maritime city of Gdansk.

A few weeks ago I presented the new White Paper on transport which outlines policy responses to the most urgent challenges the transport sector is confronted with, such as dependence on oil, climate and environment challenges, congestion, and scarcity of funding. The White Paper looks beyond sectoral aspects, at creating seamless transport chains for passengers and cargo across modes. This requires innovation, information technology and infrastructure, but it requires also a skilled, competent and motivated work force, the topic of today: "putting people first".

Maritime transport will remain an essential component of the European economy. Shipping carries 90% of European external trade and 40% of EU internal trade. European companies and residents today control about 40% of the world’s shipping fleet; 25% of the world fleet flies a European flag. Two million Europeans are working in the maritime cluster.

Shipping is a global business and Europe is in direct competition with other established and emerging powers in the world. To support the competitiveness of EU shipping, we insist on quality, sustainability and innovation. And in order to defend a fair and high-quality global level playing field, the EU is already in close cooperation with international partners and should further increase its contribution at international level.

Maritime safety

In response to accidents such as Erika and Prestige, the EU developed the most advanced regulatory framework of maritime safety and pollution prevention in the world. Our work for the coming years is to ensure this is applied thoroughly in the Member States. Maintaining the highest safety levels, also in view of expected traffic increases, requires constant review and updating — all this in as close cooperation as possible with partner countries and the IMO to ensure a level safety playing field. Our legislation also addresses the safety of passenger vessels. I will propose an update of this legislation next year.

The human element — social agenda for maritime transport

People working in the sector are at the core of any action aimed at ensuring safety, security and the protection of the marine environment. However, European officers are an ageing workforce. The expected shortage of qualified European seafarers is a threat to the entire maritime cluster.

In order to develop a better understanding of the current situation, I established an independent task force on maritime employment and competitiveness. You discussed with one member of the task force already today. The task force will deliver its report and recommendations in June and I intend to present a social agenda for maritime transport later this year. This initiative will propose legislative action on training and qualification of seafarers, in line with international standards. We want to upgrade the level of competencies of crews for safe and secure navigation at sea but also to adapt training to new skills required today and tomorrow.

We also need to enforce international standards on living and working conditions of seafarers which determine the attractiveness of the profession and affect performance, and therefore safety at sea. Existing legislation developed through a successful social dialogue needs to be completed.

We finally want to address issues such as entry to the profession, career development in a lifelong perspective, the correct legal and administrative treatment of seafarers and how to improve the image of seafaring among the general public.


Looking at the human element brings me to probably the greatest personal threat a seafarer can face: piracy and acts of armed robbery against ships. A serious and intolerable threat against the life of crews and passengers on board ships. It also endangers safety and security of navigation, the sustainability of maritime transport and global trade. As we speak, 475 seafarers, fishermen and passengers are kept hostage as a result of piracy off the coast of Somalia. 23 ships are currently held for ransom of which 8 have links to EU Member States.

IMO has declared 2011 to be the Year of Orchestrating the Response to Piracy. The EU maritime transport policy covers maritime security and the fights against piracy. The European Commission works hard to support concerted action at international level. The EU is part of naval operations against piracy, in particular the EU NAVFOR operation ATALANTA. The European Maritime Safety Agency provides EU NAVFOR with precise information on the positions of European ships transiting risk areas.

I invite all operators to apply — as recommended by the Commission — the best management practices for self-protection and the prevention of piracy. We are reflecting on the need to make this mandatory for ships sailing in pirate zones. Consideration will also be given to better ship design to deter piracy. And the issue of armed guards needs to be tackled. Beyond enforcing our legislation on ship security we need to work on the root causes, which means continuing in long-term initiatives such as economic development, capacity building and international juridical questions. There is much work ahead. Could the world tolerate 500 hostages taken in aviation or railways? Let's not accept it in the maritime world either.


Ladies and gentlemen, there is another major international issue for shipping. Waterborne transport is rightfully recognised to be one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport. But resting on this comfortable position is not a future-safe option; we have to further improve its environmental footprint. Especially in sensitive maritime areas, the Baltic Sea but also elsewhere around the European coastline, we need to reduce ship emissions while at the same time maintaining the competitiveness of short sea shipping and not risking modal backshift.

As regards the sulphur content of bunker fuels, the Commission will present this summer an adjustment of EU legislation to global requirements adopted by IMO in 2008. In parallel we look at minimising compliance costs for the shipping industry. Options include:

  • support to research and development of alternative technologies,

  • financial support to invest in new technologies,

  • development of adequate infrastructure in EU ports,

  • assessment of whether other EU sea areas should be designated as sulphur emission control areas.

A stakeholder workshop to discuss in particular compliance issues will take place on the 1st of June in Brussels.

A second area of concern is greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The White Paper envisages cuts of at least 40% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Something that requires a global solution, to be agreed in IMO. Much effort has already been put into developing an Energy Efficiency Design Index [EEDI] for new ships, which I hope will be adopted in July, a considerable positive step forward. However, estimates indicate that the application of the index would not be sufficient and the IMO is mandated to explore market-based measures to further reduce emissions from shipping. The European Commission is committed to actively work with EU Member States, industry, the IMO and our international partners to develop effective compromise solutions – in a trustful partnership with global partners.

A fully effective approach to greenhouse gas emissions reduction for a global industry such as shipping can only be global. But if agreement at global level is not possible in the short to medium term, I consider it essential to engage in discussions with partner countries and regions across the world, in order to make effective progress as regards carbon reduction but also to keep shipping on top of technical, environmental and economic development.

Short sea shipping and internal market

Europe has a long and successful tradition in trading goods by sea. But there are still barriers to be overcome in order to reap all the benefits of short sea shipping. I do not see any good reason why a truck can travel easily between several Member States from Lisbon to Gdansk, while a vessel travelling from Gdansk to Gothenburg in the Baltic Sea is still considered to be on an international voyage.

The “blue belt” concept wants ships to be able operate freely within the internal market with a minimum of administrative burden. The EU has already set up the necessary capabilities to monitor maritime transport. The European Maritime Safety Agency in Lisbon operates SafeSeaNet, a system providing a comprehensive real-time picture of maritime traffic in European waters.

Therefore I have assigned EMSA to run a pilot project to validate the "blue belt" concept. The pilot project aims to show that the tools we have at our disposal can provide the necessary guarantees to customs authorities so that ships in intra-EU trade can be treated as staying within the internal market area during their whole journey.

Innovation and e-Maritime

Both environmental challenges and concepts like the Blue Belt rely on innovation. We can improve the competitiveness of European shipping by investing in innovation and modern information and communication technologies.

e-Maritime will be a major step forward. It will improve communication between ships and ports and therefore cargo handling, also in a multimodal perspective; It will facilitate coordination between all actors involved and therefore lead to more efficient work processes and benefits for businesses and administrations. Single windows will permit sending administrative data only once.

Inland waterborne transport

The same continued technological and operational innovation and use of advanced and integrated information technologies applies also to inland waterway transport. Already a frontrunner in integrated information systems, inland water transport will benefit considerably from improved integration in maritime transport flows in particular. I will present a proposal to follow-up the current NAIADES programme, to allow better integration of waterborne modes into seamless cargo chains.

Ports, infrastructure and TEN-T

An efficient and sustainable maritime transport needs modern and efficient ports, well embedded in a multimodal European transport network and enabling seamless door-to-door cargo delivery chains. I will propose this year revised TEN-T guidelines which will also address the important role of ports — seaports as well as inland ports — as major logistics centres connecting waterborne transport and land-based transport modes. In particular we need to improve accessibility of ports and better exploit existing spare capacity on Europe's waterways. Looking towards increased performance of ports, my priorities are to:

  • review port restrictions on provision of services;

  • enhance transparency of port funding;

  • ensure that access to port land is kept open.


Ladies and gentlemen, the challenges faced by the maritime transport sector coincide with the White Paper's objectives of less congestion, fewer emissions, more employment, growth, safety and security. European quality shipping depends on innovation and we want to put people first. Our policy actions have to serve European citizens whether they are passengers, consumers, seafarers or onshore staff. Strengthening maritime transport and its quality will contribute to the positive development of maritime clusters in Europe, including our supply and shipbuilding industry and provide quality jobs for European citizens. It is indeed the basis for a strong and flexible European economy.

I wish you all a successful European maritime day, rich in debate and creative solutions.

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