20.7.2007   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 168/68


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Mid-Term Review of the Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping [COM(2003) 155 final]

COM(2006) 380 final

(2007/C 168/14)

On 13 July 2006 the European Commission decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 262 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 22 March 2007. The rapporteur was Mr Chagas.

At its 435th plenary session, held on 25 and 26 April 2007 (meeting of 25 April), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 108 votes with two abstentions.

1.   Conclusions

1.1

The EESC has consistently supported measures aimed at developing short sea shipping on account of its potential for growth and job creation and as an alternative to other, less environment-friendly modes of transport, thereby helping to reduce road congestion, accidents and noise and air pollution.

1.2

In its opinion on the programme that was presented in 2003, the EESC emphasised the need to ensure the vital role of the focal points as a bridge to the industry, and to facilitate integration into an intermodal logistics system. The EESC calls for greater efforts on the part of the Member States and the social partners to develop the network of focal points.

1.3

The Commission and the Member States must, as a matter of urgency, assume responsibility for creating conditions conducive to the development of different transport modes, not only by providing infrastructure to facilitate intermodality, but also by filling the gap left by the industry's inability to deal with the lack of real additional cooperation for not only economic, but also social and environmental sustainability.

1.4

The EESC notes the progress achieved with the actions proposed in the 2003 programme for the promotion of short sea shipping, and calls for the rapid implementation of the other planned actions, especially the removal of identified obstacles. Developing the focal points and extending their scope to encompass the promotion of inland multimodality and related logistics could help to achieve the desired results.

1.5

The EESC considers that the present communication should mention creating a Common EU Maritime Space, a step which could make a decisive contribution to giving short sea shipping a prominent role in intra-Community goods transport. It would be entirely logical for shipping between EU ports to be treated as domestic rather than international transport, with obvious benefits in terms of simpler customs procedures.

2.   Background

2.1

In 2003 the European Commission adopted a programme to promote short sea shipping (1), in response to an invitation by the Council of Transport Ministers to the Commission and the Member States with a view to ensuring both its growth and also its effective integration into existing intermodal transport chains.

2.2

This programme comprised 14 actions, five of them of a legislative nature, four technical and five operational, subdivided into practical measures and accompanied by deadlines.

2.3

In the opinion it adopted at the time (2), the EESC highlighted the need for ‘strict implementation of the deadlines proposed by the Commission’, and pointed out that ‘without certain bottlenecks being removed short sea shipping cannot evolve into intermodality’.

3.   The Communication from the Commission

3.1

The present Communication from the Commission reviews the state of implementation of the measures set out in the programme presented in 2003, evaluating the progress achieved on these actions to date, and advocates a way forward.

3.2   Legislative actions

Directive on certain reporting formalities for ships (IMO-FAL) (3): transposition of the directive into national legislation is almost complete;

the Marco Polo subvention programme (identifying Motorways of the Sea as a specific new action, in which definition of the concept is complete; the first Motorways of the Sea will be operational in 2010) is mid-way to completion;

the final adoption of the Commission proposal for a Directive on Intermodal Loading Units is still pending;

Directive 2005/33/EC introduces improved environmental performance, in particular in the areas of SOx, NOx and particulates.

3.3   Technical actions

the Guide to Customs Procedures for Short Sea Shipping has been completed;

identification and elimination of obstacles to making short sea shipping more successful than it is today (e.g. removing administrative obstacles): half-way to completion;

approximation of national applications and computerisation of Community Customs procedures: the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) has been operational since 2003; the action is half-way to completion;

Research and Technological Development: the Thematic Network of Short Sea Shipping, REALISE, finalised its work at the end of 2005. The action is half-way to completion.

3.4   Operational actions

one-stop administrative shops: the action is more than half-way to completion;

the Short Sea Shipping Focal Points are representatives of national maritime administrations that consult the Commission: the action is more than half-way to completion;

the Shortsea Promotion Centres operating in Europe offer neutral, impartial advice on the use of short sea shipping. The action is more than half-way to completion. Extension of the centres' geographical scope will continue in order to secure at least their financial security;

improving the image of short sea shipping (e.g. through the European Shortsea Network): the action is more than half-way to completion;

statistical information: a first tool, already being tested in Eurostat, would allow coherent comparisons between modes; the currently available conversion matrix will need to be further refined.

3.5

The Commission concludes that the proposed actions were the right ones, but considers that new targets with new deadlines are needed in some cases. In others, it seeks to make targets more precise or to broaden them. It also indicates that Community ports need to be better integrated into the logistics chain.

4.   General comments

4.1

The EESC has consistently supported measures aimed at developing short sea shipping on account of its potential for growth and job creation and as an alternative to other, less environment-friendly modes of transport, thereby helping to reduce road congestion, accidents and noise and air pollution.

4.2

Successive programmes and measures to promote short sea shipping have produced significant results which are reflected firstly, in average per annum growth of 3.2 % since 2000 (8.8 % for containerised cargo) and secondly, in the removal of a considerable number of obstacles identified as hampering greater development of the sector: of the initial 161 such bottlenecks, only 35 remain. This number presumably includes those which are most difficult to remove, meaning that this path must be vigorously pursued.

4.3

At its meeting of 11 December 2006, the Council adopted a series of conclusions concerning the Communication from the Commission, together with recommendations on the legislative framework, strengthening the development and promotion of short sea shipping and cooperation between the Member States and the Commission, and in general supporting the measures proposed in the mid-term review.

4.4

In evaluating the results of the programme some three years after its adoption, the Commission considers that it is ‘more than half-way to completion’, although it states that short sea shipping needs to be more tightly integrated into the ‘logistics supply chain’. It emerges however that a significant proportion of the proposed measures should already have been completed. One example of such delay is Action No. 14 on statistical information, which was proposed in a communication as far back as 1992. An initial tool is now being tested in Eurostat.

4.5

In its opinion (4) on the programme that was presented in 2003, the EESC emphasised the need to ensure the vital role of the focal points as a bridge to the industry, and to facilitate integration into an intermodal logistics system. The EESC calls for greater efforts on the part of the Member States and the social partners to develop the network of focal points.

4.6

It is not clear that a ‘multimodal … supply chain’ actually exists, although the Commission uses the expression: the aggregate of various logistics systems and intermodal networks cannot be taken to be a multimodal chain as such. The lack of coordination and cooperation between the different transport segments is clearly the main obstacle to establishing and developing a coherent and sustainable Community transport policy.

4.7

The Commission and the Member States must, as a matter of urgency, assume responsibility for creating conditions conducive to the development of different transport modes, not only by providing infrastructure to facilitate intermodality, but also by filling the gap left by the industry's inability to deal with the lack of real additional cooperation for not only economic, but also social and environmental sustainability.

5.   Specific comments

5.1   Legislative actions

5.1.1

Of the measures proposed, only the introduction of new European Intermodal Loading Units has not been carried out. A number of economic actors expressed serious reservations about the proposal, arguing that the adoption of new models for loading units should take place at international, rather than purely European, level. The EESC also voiced some of these concerns to which adequate answers are required. The Commission recently re-opened the debate on this proposal, and it appears that a readjustment, intended to ensure that the introduction of a new container model does not necessarily entail changes to existing models, could meet some of the concerns expressed.

5.1.2

The Marco Polo programme must continue to play an important part in funding and developing new and existing lines. Including Motorways of the Sea as a specific new action could help to bring this about. However, some uncertainty persists regarding the Motorways of the Sea concept. While the idea of not restricting their application to TEN-T is to be supported, their introduction must be transparent and not generate any distortion of competition.

5.1.3

The industry's efforts in the area of environmental performance are producing positive results. However, further improvements in performance are needed, regardless of comparisons with other transport modes. Investment in research and development for cleaner fuel and engines must be stepped up and actively encouraged. Community legislation in this area should be reviewed in line with possible developments. Investment should also be made in modernising certain segments of the Community fleet.

5.1.4

The EESC does not understand why the present communication makes no mention of the creation of a Common EU Maritime Space, as discussed in other documents such as the Green Paper on a future maritime policy, the mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper, and the Communication on goods logistics. To do so could make a decisive contribution to giving short sea shipping a prominent role in intra-Community goods transport. It would be entirely logical for shipping between EU ports to be treated as domestic rather than international transport, with obvious benefits in terms of simpler customs procedures.

5.2   Technical actions

5.2.1

The EESC notes the progress achieved with the proposed technical actions, and urges the Commission and the Member States to press ahead with implementing them. It is particularly important that the contact groups between the different administrations continue their work to identify common solutions to deal with the remaining obstacles.

5.3   Operational actions

5.3.1

One of the Commission's main conclusions regarding the application of the measures is that the scope of the Shortsea Promotion Centres should be extended to encompass the promotion of inland multimodality and related logistics. It is vital to step up cooperation between the various logistics segments by promoting cooperation between them.

5.3.2

Similarly, the contact groups could help to devise local and/or regional solutions to remove obstacles to enhanced short sea shipping performance. The involvement of the social partners, as well as of the Maritime Industries Forum (MIF), should be encouraged.

5.3.3

The provision of reliable, harmonised and full information is an important element. As mentioned above, this need was identified in an earlier communication in 1992. The EESC recognises the progress made recently, and calls upon the Commission and the Member States to focus more attention on this issue.

Brussels, 25 April 2007.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Dimitris DIMITRIADIS


(1)  COM(2003) 155 final.

(2)  CESE 1398/2003, rapporteur: Mr Chagas. OJ C 32, 5.2.2004.

(3)  International Maritime Organisation's Facilitation Forms.

(4)  See footnote 2.