‘WATERBORNE’ technology platform launched in Bremen
On 25 January 2005, waterborne transport stakeholders joined researchers and government representatives at the Maritime Industries Forum in Bremen, for the launch of ‘WATERBORNE’. This new EU-supported Technology Platform aims to show the way to more effective waterborne transport research. The Commission confirmed its intention to increase support for transport research as a whole.
The maritime sector is big business; 90% of the EU’s external trade and 40% of its internal trade relies on waterborne transport. Europe is a world leader in the design and production of specialised, high-technology vessels such as cruise liners and liquefied natural gas tankers. However, it faces increasing competition from East Asian high-volume ship production. In order for Europe’s shipping industry to survive, it must continue to innovate, and this is the driving force behind the launch of WATERBORNE. Better coordination of research across Europe will help to cement Europe’s position as an environmentally responsible, safe operator and manufacturer.
European Commission Vice-President Gunter Verheugen said, “Europe represents centuries of shipbuilding excellence. Today we still lead the world in terms of maritime industry turnover. The Commission is saying that it wants to support continued prosperity in the maritime sector, not through protectionism and subsidies, but through support for long-term competitiveness.”
Maritime Industries Forum (MIF) Co-Chair Patrick Boissier said, “Our competitors in Asia benefit from much lower labour costs. In Europe, where this is not an option, our competitive advantage must be based on knowledge and advanced technologies.”
WATERBORNE is one in a series of transport Technology Platforms, including ERRAC, ERTRAC and ACARE, launched by the European Commission under the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6).
Technology platforms represent a real innovation in EU research policy, bringing together all interested parties in a particular sector or area. The areas are chosen for their strategic importance or their potential contribution to the European Union’s goals of knowledge-based growth, competitiveness and employment.
WATERBORNE brings together representatives from the maritime industry, national authorities and government institutions, regulatory bodies, research centres and universities, with the aim of improving the coherence of waterborne transport research in Europe.
According to Jack Metthey, Director of the Commission’s Research Directorate-General, “WATERBORNE’s first task is to provide a forum for high-level exchange between all stakeholders: public and privates sectors; EU and national institutions; and, importantly, waterborne transport users, who can help guide the industry towards new and better products and services.” This discussion phase, Metthey explains, will culminate with the elaboration of a common vision for future European waterborne transport research.
Support for a strategic sector
Phase two of WATERBORNE will involve the development of a ‘Strategic Research Agenda’ (SRA), not a detailed research work programme, but a clear statement of research priorities, including recommendations for the implementation of both public and private research initiatives and the identification of the necessary steps and timing. The SRA will also make determinations as to the validity of existing research programmes. A third phase will involve support for the successful development and exploitation of products and services that meet real user needs.
“The Commission believes that Europe’s future lies in research,” said Metthey. “As such, we are now proposing an unprecedented increase in research funding, as we move towards the next Framework Programme (FP7). We see transport as a highly strategic thematic priority, and the FP7 draft, which will come out in April 2005, will call for a substantial increase in transport research funding. Our goals are: first, to support European transport policy, with its priorities of mobility, greening of transport, and safety and security; and, second, to support European industrial policy, especially with reference to increasing competitiveness through technological excellence.”
Bremen and the Maritime Industries Forum
The WATERBORNE launch took place at the MIF Plenary Session in Bremen, Germany. MIF comprises representatives from the European Industry Associations, EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Member States, the Commission, the Parliament and Regional bodies, together with affiliated organisations and observers.
Among MIF’s stated goals are the provision of a permanent industry-EU interface, providing input to the political debate and support to the decision-making process, advising the European Parliament, and generally maintaining and promoting a competitive European maritime sector.
The Free City of Bremen, Germany’s oldest maritime city and a leading member of the once great Hanseatic League, was a natural host for the WATERBORNE kick-off. Today, together with its deep-sea port of Bremerhaven, it is still Germany’s second largest port.
President of the Senate of Bremen and Mayor of the Free City of Bremen Henning Scherf displayed genuine delight as he welcomed participants to the city’s grand and decidedly maritime Rathaus (town hall). “The Hanseatic League was a true forerunner of the European Union, all those centuries ago. It is good to see all of you here today, still learning from our example.”