Mobility and Transport

Maritime Year: EU priorities and actions

Maritime Year: EU priorities and actions

Europe is one of the leading maritime centres in the world: with 329 key seaports along its coastline, and controlling around one third of the world's merchant fleet. It is also home to a thriving maritime services sector and marine equipment industry.

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The maritime sector is a prerequisite and an accelerator for trade both within the EU and globally.

Ports are vital gateways, linking European transport corridors to the rest of the world. As 75% of European external trade transits through EU ports, the shipping sector plays a major role in connecting the European market with its trade partners.

With a dynamic short-sea shipping sector, the European maritime sector also contributes to the development of a competitive and resource efficient transport system in the EU. Today, shipping accounts for around a third of intra-EU exchanges, and annually 400 million passengers embark and disembark at EU ports.

However, a number of challenges still persist and limit the potential of the sector, including administrative burden and a weak integration with the overall transport network. More needs to also be done to limit ship-source pollution, notably greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution or waste from ships. Innovation, changing business, economics and technology are highlighting the need to adapt EU's maritime and ports policy to ensure high standards for safety, security and environmental protection, an efficient internal market and global competitiveness.

Commissioner Bulc announced 2017 as the "Maritime Year". Throughout 2017 the Commission has and will continue to engage with all stakeholders. The aim is to put maritime issues at the forefront of the EU's political agenda, as well as raising awareness around the important role of maritime transport.

PDF iconMaritime Year in Action: main achievements

So what is the Commission doing?

Modern rules for maritime safety and security

The EU has put in place probably the most extensive and successful legislative framework for safety, environmental protection and quality shipping, which covers the entire chain. While the European approach largely reflects the international obligations set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), it also ensures that rules are made practically enforceable to protect our ships, our coasts and our citizens.

In doing so, the Commission benefits greatly from the support of the European Maritime Safety Agency, which provides technical, operational and scientific assistance. It provides a network of antipollution vessels, which are available within 24h in case of oil spills. In addition, the Agency plays a critical role in providing concrete technical solutions for effective maritime monitoring and surveillance activities. It also cooperates directly with national coast guard organisations and other EU agencies such as Frontex and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).

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EU Maritime Year: priorities and actions in decarbonisation, digitalisation, investment and innovation.
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Digital technologies contribute to safety improvements such as through the vessel traffic monitoring and information system SafeSeaNet.

Regular monitoring of the applicable framework and its implementation is necessary to ensure that objectives are achieved with the least burden for operators and Member States, for instance through simplification or digitalisation. In this respect an overall evaluation exercise of EU legislation for maritime safety was launched as part of the Maritime Year assessing the relevance and added-value of the legal and organisational set up in line with the international obligations of EU Member States in their capacity as flag, port and coastal states.

The Commission will also continue enhancing maritime transport security, in particular to step up the protection of ports, container ships and passenger transport ships such as ferries and cruise ships.

High environmental standards

Although its environmental record can be one of its greatest assets, the maritime sector needs to ensure its performance is sustained and even improved to tackle effectively climate change, air or water pollution.

Climate change is an issue which requires a global solution, and the EU is actively engaging within the IMO to prepare an initial strategy to reduce GHG emissions, which should be adopted in 2018.

The Commission also continues to promote high levels of environmental protection in EU waters, coastlines and ports, through the necessary standards, and in supporting the sector to effectively comply with legislation. In order to accelerate this work, the EU supports investments in new technologies, appropriate facilities, economic incentives and enforcement. It also encourages the ports sector to implement measures that can stimulate the use of green vessels.

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Reducing the impact on the environment by alternative fuels and efficient engines; collecting waste and handling it in Port Reception Facilities; and recycling ships.

Greater efficiency through digitalisation

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The EU Maritime Single Window environment simplifies administrative formalities in shipping operations in the EU for better efficiency and less red-tape.

There is a strong need to remove the bottlenecks and cut the red-tape that hamper the attractiveness of the maritime sector. Today, paper reporting is still used to a certain degree in more than half of the ports, often as duplication. Also ships calling several ports within the EU may have to provide the exact same information multiple times because of a lack of coordination.

Full EU harmonisation of reporting requirements and wider coverage of reporting formalities are urged by the shipping industry in order to simplify operations, increase efficiency and boost the attractiveness of the sector.

The Commission is now working towards developing a standard to bundle all cargo related documentation into a single electronic document (eManifest), and establishing a European Maritime Single Window environment which will greatly simplify ship reporting and cargo formalities in European ports, reducing the gap with land transport, and increasing the attractiveness of the sector. Moreover, digitalisation is key for improving the integration of shipping in a multimodal logistics chain.

Increase attractiveness and global competitiveness

Since 2009, successive crises have brought about a drastic reduction in transport volumes, and the sector has suffered many years of overcapacity. While it is for industry to make decisions on trade and investments, the EU is providing a framework to support the sector and ensure it remains competitive.

Investments in the maritime and ports sector contribute to the development of innovative technology and solutions, to adapt to new challenges (security, environmental protection, etc.) and remain attractive. Also, the EU offers stable framework conditions through the adoption of the Port Services Regulation and a proper application of the existing Maritime State Aid rules.

A skilled work force is at the heart of the European maritime and ports sector's competitiveness. The EU is taking action to make maritime professions more attractive, notably by strengthening social dialogue and initiatives for education and training.

Given the international nature of the sector, the EU is also directly engaged at global and regional level, to drive global standards and secure access to markets worldwide.

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The Green Shipping Guarantee Programme provides financial guarantee through EU funds for financing sustainable marine technologies.