Finding synergies to boost Blue Growth
"Island Transport Connectivity and the Green Transformation of the Shipbuilding Industry"
28 June 2012
Commissioner Maria Damanaki took part in the hearing "Island Transport Connectivity and the Green Transformation of the Shipbuilding Industry", hosted by Nikos Chrysogelos, Member of the European Parliament.
Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about today's topic and putting it into the context of the Commission's Blue Growth strategy.
The geography of Europe features a very long coastline and many islands. Some of these islands are remote from the mainland or from economic centres. And some are thinly populated, which makes it difficult to establish commercially viable links, be they for transport, energy or information networks.
The EU's outermost regions pose a particular challenge, because they belong to the political and economic Europe, but are often not located in geographical Europe.
We do not want these islands and regions to become deserted because local residents are deprived of outlets or basic services. Keeping these areas connected, so that they can develop their own economic fabric and keep their population, is our political obligation.
Since the critical mass of transport volumes, passengers or consumers that would be necessary is often missing, what we need is smart solutions: smart solutions in maritime transport, ocean energy… or that tap into the economic potential of islands and coastal regions, for example in tourism. This is what we are looking for.
The Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is the approach chosen by the EU and it is fully applicable to these regions. As you may be aware, the Commission is currently developing the maritime dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy, which we call Blue Growth.
Like for the entire European economy, also for our maritime economy the way ahead is sustainable growth and employment through innovation. There are several maritime sectors that can lead the way and help reverse the recent downward trend. For example, offshore wind energy, blue biotech, short sea shipping or, obviously, cruise tourism, have been in the press for some time now because they are still growing despite a general recession.
Later this year, we are going to set the scene for these promising sectors with a Communication on Blue Growth. For selected value chains such as ocean energy, seabed mining, modern aquaculture, blue biotechnology or maritime tourism, we will come forward with more specific recommendations later.
Going back to our islands and extended coast lines, short-sea shipping plays a big role in enabling economic activities and connecting to the main markets. From today's agenda, I see that you know all about the policy instruments at hand, the results achieved and the obstacles to overcome.
Let me just add this: smart solutions are often the result of clever combinations.
For example, customising ships so as to have the right combination of cargo and passenger services can reduce operating costs and maximise revenues. At a time when public money is hardly available, this must be our approach. And our shipyards are well equipped to deliver this level of specialisation.
Through the LeaderSHIP 2020 initiative, which the Commission is developing with the industry, we will explore how our yards can employ new business concepts and make the financing and the cost-efficient construction of such vessels easier. Here, we could consider new forms of public-private partnerships that would be tailored to maritime transport and island connectivity needs. This would also open up opportunities to roll out environmental innovations for ships, especially in the area of air emissions.
Another smart solution may come from combining the ocean energy potential of islands and coastal regions with the energy needs of the shipping sector. During the last European Maritime Day in Gothenburg, we were shown the concept for a zero-emission coastal trading vessel. This vessel would run on hydrogen produced with surplus offshore wind energy. Instead of wasting this energy, islands can thus actively contribute to the viability of their transport connections and create jobs locally.
Needless to say, good connectivity is also crucial for many other economic activities on islands and in coastal regions.
For instance, tourism can only flourish if customers can reach their destinations comfortably and relatively quickly. And it makes more economic sense to invest in existing maritime transport infrastructures, rather than building new regional airports which are costly and often underused.
Modern and innovative aquaculture can also create jobs away from industrial centres, but the products must reach their target markets in time. Again, good connectivity is key.
These are just some examples. The Integrated Maritime Policy, which is part of my portfolio, is about clever combinations and synergies like these. And with our Blue Growth concept, we aim to deliver these synergies sooner rather than later, for the benefit of European economy and of European society at large.
We are now in the process of defining the tasks, of organising the stakeholders and of developing the policy tool box, also in view of the next financial perspective of the EU. We want Blue Growth to be the blueprint for a future-oriented and sustainable maritime economy.
And we want to build on the assets that we clearly have. One of them is the European shipbuilding industry, that remains a world leader in innovation and that can respond to Europe's specific needs in a way that Asian mass producers can't.
I hope that today's event can provide useful insight into the Blue Growth strategy too and I look forward to your results.
Thank you for your attention.