Brussels to target cash strapped shipping companies and piracy in new strategy document

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The financial crisis and its impact on shipping together with boosting European seafarers numbers, combating piracy and reducing the environmental impact of shipping have been singled out by the European Commission as areas in need of decisive action.

Speaking at the launch of the Commission’s 10-year strategy plan to promote safe, secure, clean and efficient shipping, European Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said: “The financial crisis and its impact on the maritime transport sector demands decisive action. We need to look ahead and provide answers to the many challenges we face today, from keeping EU seamanship capacities, combating piracy and reducing the environmental impact of shipping.”

The Commission said its proposed strategic options were built on an all-inclusive approach, which are at the basis of the new European Integrated Maritime Policy, ‘and reflect the core principles of sustainable development, economic growth and open markets in fair competition and high environmental and social standards’.

Commissioner Joe Borg, responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said he welcomed this maritime transport strategy “as a cornerstone of the Action Plan of the Integrated Maritime Policy which aims at strengthening competitiveness, sustainable growth and employment in the European maritime industries as a whole”.

Over recent years, ever more globalised trade connections and the developments in terms of world trade, energy markets, climate change concerns or security threats have stressed the importance of seaborne transport for the prosperity of Europe and its citizens, the Commission said in a statement. “With over 80% of world trade being carried by sea, maritime transport remains the backbone of international trade. For the EU, the world’s most important exporter and the second biggest importer, shipping and related services are essential in helping European companies to compete globally.

“The European shipping industry is also one of Europe’s largest export industries. It provides transport services between Europe and the rest of the world and between third countries in all regions of the globe. In Europe, short-sea shipping is an essential part of the transport chain, carrying 40% of intra-European freight in ton-kilometres. With more than 400 million passengers passing through European ports each year, maritime transport has also a direct impact on the quality of life of European citizens (both as tourists and as inhabitants of islands and peripheral regions).”

It said it expected a substantial increase of both international and intra-EU seaborne trade over the next 10 years. This implies a considerable growth in shipping operations in all the maritime façades of the Union and significant challenges to the sustainable development of the overall transport chain.