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Motorways of the Sea

The “motorways of the sea” concept aims at introducing new intermodal maritime-based logistics chains in Europe, which should bring about a structural change in our transport organisation within the next years to come. These chains will be more sustainable, and should be commercially more efficient, than road-only transport. Motorways of the sea will thus improve access to markets throughout Europe, and bring relief to our over-stretched European road system. For this purpose, fuller use will have to be made not only of our maritime transport resources, but also of our potential in rail and inland waterway, as part of an integrated transport chain. This is the Community added-value of motorways of the sea.

In its Transport White Paper of September 2001, the Commission proposed the development of “Motorways of the Sea” as a “real competitive alternative to land transport.” To help these lines develop, the White Paper states that European funds should be made available. These "motorways of the sea" should be part of the Trans-European network (TEN-T).

The adoption of Article 12a of the TEN-T Guidelines of 29 April 2004 (“TEN-T” - Official Journal L 167, 30/04/2004 P.0001 - 0038, COM(2004)0884 ) by Council and European Parliement gives a legal framework for funding the “motorways of the sea” . Article 12a TEN-T gives three main objectives for the sea motorways projects:

(1) freight flow concentration on sea-based logistical routes;

(2) increasing cohesion;

(3) reducing road congestion through modal shift.

Four corridors have been designated for the setting up of projects of European interest

  • Motorway of the Baltic Sea (linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in Central and Western Europe, including the route through the North Sea/Baltic Sea canal) (by 2010);
  • Motorway of the Sea of western Europe (leading from Portugal and Spain via the Atlantic Arc to the North Sea and the Irish Sea) (by 2010);
  • Motorway of the Sea of south-east Europe (connecting the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus) (by 2010);
  • Motorway of the Sea of south-west Europe (western Mediterranean, connecting Spain, France, Italy and including Malta and linking with the Motorway of the Sea of south-east Europe and including links to the Black Sea) (by 2010).

Map of motorways of the sea pdf - 367 KB [367 KB]

These corridors provide one essential part of the projects: the "floating infrastructures" of our European seas. However, it is up to industry, Member States and the Community to implement financially and operationally sound projects to use these maritime resources better for new intermodal maritime-based transport systems.

To make motorways of the sea a success, three conditions must be present for each project.

  • First, in order to obtain the necessary concentration of freight flows, choices have to be made concerning ports and intermodal corridors and services.
  • Second, all actors in the supply chain have to be committed to these projects.
  • Third, motorways of the sea need to feature the best available quality throughout the chain in order to be attractive for users.

By 2010, a fully fledged network of motorways of the sea should be established throughout Europe on the corridors mentioned above.