Backed by the European Parliament, which adopted the Building a Comprehensive European Port Strategy report yesterday (January 17), the ship-building representative organisation SEA Europe says it aims to protect the economic independence of the EU’s waterborne ecosystem against ‘Asia’s unfair competitive practices’ and ‘the background of increased Chinese investments in Europe’s maritime infrastructure’.
It also emphasises the ‘growing importance of safeguarding critical infrastructure at sea and underwater, encompassing energy pipelines, communication networks, and offshore renewable energy facilities’.
The European Sea Ports Organisdation (ESPO) has also applauded the move.
“Against this background, SEA Europe urges the European Union to harmonise measures that strengthen the resilience and protection of these critical infrastructures, ensuring the safety and security of EU waters and operations,” SEA Europe says.
“Adequate measures to enhance the competitiveness and resilience of European shipyards, maritime equipment manufacturers and their entire supply chains are necessary to secure Europe’s strategic autonomy, defence, and security but also to enabling this industry to fully tap into the economic growth that the EU’s political ambitions offer in terms of potential to build and retrofit future-proof zero-emission, sustainable and digital waterborne transport,” said SEA Europe secretary general Christophe Tytgat.
“An ambitious European Industrial Maritime Strategy will also offer the maritime technology industry the relevant means to fully exploit Europe’s Blue Economy and related activities, including offshore wind energy.”
The strategy advises all EU member states to implement a foreign direct investment screening system and carry out screenings ‘in a more harmonised manner’.
“This not only fosters the necessary level playing field within Europe, but also contributes to more legal certainty for potential investors aiming to invest in European ports,” it says.
It also recommends ‘support for the role of ports in the transition energy sources, in particular in terms of the development of infrastructure in ports for hydrogen and acceleration of authorisation procedures’.
Christophe Tytgat, with SEA Europer, told MJ: “The type of strategies to be employed are not yet defined. That is why the EP has called for it. It is now up to the European Commission to develop a strategy that will strengthen the (global) competitiveness and resilience of the maritime industry, including shipyards, maritime equipment manufacturing, shipowners, ports and port infrastructure.
“First and foremost, the European Commission – and by extension the EU Member States – need to treat the maritime industry as strategic. Like for other strategic sectors, such as chips, batteries, or hydrogen – sectoral measures will be key.”
“This report of the Parliament comes at the right time,” said Isabelle Ryckbost, secretary general of ESPO (European Sea Ports Organisation). “It is a strong document. Ports in Europe are in transition. Is in their traditional role as gateways to trade and nodes in supply chains, as well as in their new role as facilitators of important European transitions, ports are playing an increasingly strategic and critical role. That can only be sustainable if there is a support that is stable, provides certainty and helps ports to remain competitive, even with regard to non-European ports. For us, supporting and enabling ports to maintain their important role, to prepare and ‘build’ for their new roles in achieving Europe’s ambitions is the best possible port strategy.”