Europe's ports are vital gateways, linking its transport corridors to the rest of the world. 74% of goods entering or leaving Europe go by sea, and Europe boasts some of the finest port facilities in the world. Ports also play a crucial role both in the exchange of goods within the internal market and in linking peripheral and island areas with the mainland. But ports are not only great for moving goods around, they also generate employment; 1.5 million workers are employed in European ports, with the same amount again employed indirectly across the 22 EU maritime Member States.
Nevertheless the sector is facing major challenges in terms of hinterland congestion, traffic growth and investment. The EU needs good performing ports across all maritime regions. Bottlenecks in ports and their hinterland due to the lack of high quality infrastructure or low performing port services result in congestion and extra costs for shippers, transport operators and consumers.
The new guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) have identified 329 key seaports [377 KB] along Europe’s coastline that will become part of a unified network boosting growth and competitiveness in Europe's Single Market. The Connecting Europe Facility financial instrument will provide up to € 26 billion to support transport infrastructures, including ports and connections of port with the hinterland, for the period 2014-2020.
The Commission adopted on 23 May 2013 an initiative aimed at improving port operations and onward transport connections at these 329 key seaports. This initiative proposes an integrated strategy combining legislative measures and non-legislative measures.
- The legislative measures take the form of a Regulation to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The proposed Regulation will introduce common rules on the transparency of public funding and the market access of port services. The rules on the market access of ports services will however not apply to cargo handling. This Regulation will protect port operators against legal uncertainties and unfair competition and help attract investors. The adoption of the Regulation will help provide a better allocation of scarce public funding and an effective and fair application of the State aid rules in ports. It was estimated that this Regulation could save the European economy up to €10 billion by 2030 and help develop new short sea links.
- This proposed Regulation complements the modernization of the state aid rules by the Directorate General for Competition through the development of the case law (see list of decisions relevant to ports [231 KB] ). The Commission is considering further clarification of the state aid rules applicable to port when the regulation will be adopted, notably by including certain port investments in the Block Exemption Regulation.
- As other non-legislative measures, the Commission promotes and supports the social dialogue between port workers and their employees to address issues such as health and safety at work, training and qualifications. An EU social dialogue committee has been established and met for the first time on 19 June 2013.
- The Commission will integrate ports in the future corridor work plans foreseen by article 46 of the TEN-T guidelines (Regulation 1315/2013) and will provide targeted grants and other forms of financial supports to port infrastructure projects by using the Connecting Europe Facility .
- The Commission is undertaking a series of measures to simplify procedures in ports, in particular by avoiding unnecessary controls by customs for the movement of goods within the internal market ("Blue Belt "). The main instrument to assess the EU status of goods will be a harmonized cargo manifest to be introduced in June 2015.
- Finally the Commission supports initiatives to raise the environmental profile of ports by providing guidelines and promote the exchange of good practices and will define a port research and innovation agenda which can be used in the Horizon 2020 programme to encourage innovation in ports.