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Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

An Integrated Approach to the Sea Putting People First

European Maritime Day

Gdansk, 19 May 2011

Prime Minister, Presidents, ladies and gentlemen,

While I was coming over this morning, I was thinking that there could not be a better place than Gdansk to celebrate maritime Europe. Everywhere around us we are reminded of a thousand years of maritime history.

But this city can also teach us something about the future of maritime Europe.

For example: in Gdansk, no one underestimates the potential of emerging maritime sectors – part of the Shipyard has diversified its production and offers wind turbine towers and wave energy plants.

Here, people know how important it is to keep the EU's maritime know-how alive: the Gdynia Maritime Academy is preparing young people to be the skilled professionals of tomorrow's industry.

This is a crucial point: to boost maritime sectors, the first thing to do is to provide excellence in education and make maritime careers appealing to young people . New people bring new ideas – and new ideas can produce new jobs for the 88 million Europeans who work in coastal regions.

Yes, 88 million people. In Gdansk as in the rest of Europe, people living in coastal regions need to proper employment opportunities; Entrepreneurs need a stable investment climate. Researchers are calling for accessible marine data. And everybody wants the seas to be safe.

The Integrated Maritime Policy lays the conditions for the maritime economy to provide all this – and for economic growth to come from the sea.

It is a policy at the service of the European maritime and coastal communities which aims at promoting blue growth for the benefit of the European citizens.

Today I will speak about the initiatives we have started to set up and that are already changing the way we work – as well as the way governments and local authorities work.

I've just said that the IMP is designed to promote Blue Growth for the benefit of the European citizens. Let's take some examples of our ongoing initiatives to illustrate this:

An offshore wind farm in a strategic position, for instance, could easily meet the energy needs of the people who live along the coast of a same sea basin.

To build it, however, you need to make a wise use of marine space. Moreover, you need an investor who is ready to go through heavy administrative costs to get the permits.

Our Maritime Planning initiative starts from the assumption that the sea space needs to be carefully managed.

For each major sea area, all the planned and current activities and their environmental impacts need to be on public record. Firms must have access to geological and geographical data for that area. This will lower costs and provide legal certainty for them, fostering new investments. It will also reduce conflicts between economic activities, improve the effectiveness of public policies and advance environmental protection.

When making the wind farm example, I mentioned the prohibitive research costs. Indeed, engineers from a leading developer of renewable energy have calculated that they will be spending upwards of 100 million euro on marine data when planning, designing, building and operating a four-gigawatt wind farm.

No wonder renewable energies still cannot compete with fossil fuels!

As part of the "Marine Knowledge 2020" initiative, consortia of European scientists and engineers are now processing these data into seamless layers and creating single access points open to all public and private users.

Renewable energy operators will then be able to obtain all the data they need through this one gateway - and thus work more efficiently. Companies will be able to deposit the extra data they collect in secure public databases, so that they can be used by others.

Academia and industry will surely find innovative uses for these newly-unlocked data - both to increase understanding of our seas and oceans and to create innovative new products and services that will boost the maritime economy.

Moreover, the freer access to knowledge will also help ordinary citizens become involved in decisions that concern their own coasts and seas, getting control of what happens in their backyard.

I am talking about wider access to knowledge, bottom-up decision-making and collective marine governance. I cannot think of a smarter growth than that.

Another initiative which is changing our approach to the sea is the one related to control and surveillance.

Sadly, piracy nowadays poses an increasing threat to crews. Illegal fishing jeopardizes our fish stocks and undermines our conservation efforts. Cargos of arms or drugs can reach continental Europe by sea.

Of course more policing also means more money; and these days there is not a lot of public money to go round. But advanced technology enables authorities to share information across sectors and across borders, regardless of the ships’ cargoes or routes.

So our initiative is creating a network for Maritime Surveillance in order to combat crime and protect merchant ships and fishing boats from threats or improve not just policing activities, but also rescue operations. There is a general consensus on the benefits of this: data will be shared; authorities will be better prepared to react; money will be saved.

What are our next steps? We have a lot to do here.

These days, almost every week, I come across an article or a documentary on new exciting activities at sea. I'm sure it's the same for you. One day it's about tidal energy, the next about raw materials, and then on the use of algae for cosmetics, or even bio-economy…

This is very good, it means we are going towards a new maritime era. An era we must embrace.

But there are still many unanswered questions, and one stands out among all: how can all these new developments and ideas bring new jobs for the people?

Our new initiative, Blue Growth, answer that question: it looks at the domains which are most likely to produce wealth – and at what needs to be done to unlock the wealth that comes from the oceans. For example:

What is the employment potential of marine renewable energies for coastal regions? Or

What is the competitive advantage of Europe in the extraction of bio-molecules for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries?

Next year, the Commission will recommend actions for several established, emerging and future maritime sectors. We want to remove the barriers hindering sustainable growth coming from the sea. We want to mix and match the skills, research and capital needed to drive forward Europe's maritime economy. We want to recapture Europe's genius to exploit our seas and oceans sustainably.

I am convinced that even in today’s economic climate, the challenges posed by marine renewable energies or by deep-sea exploration are not the problem: they are the solution.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are also working together to build an IMP at the service of the European maritime and coastal communities

This brings me back to my initial point on know-how and education. I already pointed out that we need enough people with the right qualifications, skills and experience to perpetuate the EU’s maritime heritage. And we need to attract young people toward the maritime career we have to offer long-term job perspectives along a variety of maritime sectors. While general unemployment is growing, we face a shortage of maritime professionals and officers.

How can we make the maritime career more attractive? And above all: how can we promote mobility between jobs and sectors?

Job mobility is one of the aspects of our strategy for local development. Maritime Policy is all about interconnections, all about acknowledging the complex network that all policies related to the sea inevitably form. If those links are not exploited at local level, if communities don’t diversify their economies, if people don’t move across sectors… it will make no sense.

This is why we believe, for example, that the maritime knowhow of the fishermen is crucial for the whole maritime sector, they will continue to fish sustainably but they can also use their boats to carry out sea-cleaning operations or to supply offshore wind parks. They can also share their maritime and technical knowledge with onshores maritime industries, which needs their expertise. In the next financing exercise, through the European Fisheries Fund, fishermen may have these opportunities. I think this is where public money should go to: reinventing job opportunities for coastal communities and feeding entrepreneurial initiative in new sectors.

A growth-inducing policy cannot be a one-size-fits-all formula.

Priorities, needs and challenges will vary from one sea basin to the other. This is why the Maritime Policy is geographically specific.

Cooperation within each sea basin is essential to secure healthy marine ecosystems. As experience shows, it is critical for regional economic development as well.

The example that comes from these shores is also our best success story: it is the Baltic Sea Strategy. What is it doing? Well, there are over 80 projects, so let me just give you a couple of examples.

Representatives from education, maritime industry and maritime authorities of the different countries are setting up a “network of centres of excellence for maritime training”. The idea is to make maritime careers more flexible and offer young people tailor-made opportunities.

Another ten countries around the Baltic and North Sea are now working to improve the search and rescue functions for people in distress at sea.

The results borne by the Baltic Sea Strategy in a relatively short time suggest that sea basin approaches can be economic drivers. They target the needs of players and operators on the ground more precisely and directly; they channel European, national and regional funding into commonly agreed objectives; and they move more steadily toward social goals like employment and quality of life.

This is also true of Blue Growth: the maritime economy has the potential to meet the Europe 2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; but without your help and participation, it will never actually happen.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Here in Gdansk, we are reminded of why we needed an Integrated Maritime Policy. Right now, as we speak, there is someone out there, in a lab, on a beach, in an investment firm, on a ship or in a city council, who is starting to benefit from our new political approach to the sea.

This year’s Maritime Day puts these people first and we need to find ways to improve their lives.

I say – let the discussion begin – and I hope you will all join in.

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