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Maritime transport

Measures to support freight transport
18 October 2007


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Short Sea Shipping   


The Dynamic Choice Complementing the Sustainable Transport Chain

Short Sea Shipping is a successful mode of transport in Europe. For instance, in the 1990’s it was the only mode that was able to keep pace with the growth of road transport. It has in fact started to outpace road transport. Short Sea Shipping is also an obvious choice to play a key role in reaching the objectives of the European Transport Policy. It can help curb the forecasted substantial increase in heavy goods vehicle traffic, rebalance the modal shares, bypass land bottlenecks, and it is safe and sustainable.

The European Commission has an active policy to promote Short Sea Shipping. In 1999 it presented a Communication with a comprehensive approach to increase the use of the mode. Furthermore, the recent European Commission White Paper on European Transport Policy for 2010 emphasised the role of Short Sea Shipping in maintaining an efficient transport system in Europe now and in the future.

Continuous political support from the Council, Member States and European Parliament is vital for Short Sea Shipping to capture its true market share. Such support was last confirmed in the informal meeting of the European Union Transport Ministers that took place in May/June 2002 in Gijón (Spain) and that was fully devoted to ways to promote Short Sea Shipping.

To make full use of Short Sea Shipping in Europe, it needs to be seamlessly integrated into logistics chains and offer door-to-door solutions to customers. Such logistics chains should be managed and commercialised by one-stop shops offering the customers a single contact point that takes responsibility for the whole intermodal chain. Further, the notion of competition between modes should be replaced by complementarity because co-operation between modes is vital in door-to-door chains involving more than one mode. This requires efforts from all parties but it is a clear win-win situation.

A number of obstacles still impede the further development of Short Sea Shipping. First, many commercial players still view it, wrongly, as an old-fashioned mode of transport. Second, full integration of Short Sea Shipping into door-to-door multimodality remains to be accomplished. Third, the complexity of documentary and administrative procedures in Short Sea Shipping is a fact that needs to be examined and tackled. Fourth, the efficiency of ports, port services and port-hinterland connections needs to be enhanced.

The Community is in the process of pursuing solutions to a number of these obstacles.

The Commission is convinced that co-ordinated efforts at all levels (Member States, regional, local, industry and Commission) will substantially help accelerate the growth of Short Sea Shipping, alleviate obstacles and allow Short Sea Shipping to become a true success story of the 21st century.

Tonnage Measurement Study (November 2006)


last update: 15-12-2008