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#PortRegulations - This week, MEP and Rapporteur, Knut Fleckenstein and the shadow Rapporteurs on the Ports Regulation Proposal have jointly decided not to vote on the Regulation before the EU elections.

The EP key players on this proposal are stressing that they are willing to take up the work again after the elections and express the wish that the newly elected Transport Committee takes stock of the progress made so far on this file and continues the work.

"We understand that achieving a good compromise on such a controversial file in such a short time frame, especially in the run-up to the European elections is not an easy job. We are pleased that there is a clear will from the main players on this file to continue the work after the elections, away from any electoral pressure." said European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) Secretary General, Isabelle Ryckbost in a reaction to the postponement.

She added "We are looking forward to continue the constructive dialogue with the Parliament, Commission and Council in view of obtaining a balanced result that means a step forward for every single port in Europe".


Published in Ports & Shipping

#CleanFuels- The EU's parliament and council are to discuss in a meeting today the so-called "trilogue" on the Clean Fuel Strategy to reach a compromise and find a solution on the outstanding issues.

If necessary, another trilogue is foreseen in two weeks-time. If an agreement can be found, it can be endorsed by the Parliament before the elections.
European Sea Port Organisation (ESPO) fully supports the Clean Fuel Strategy proposal as a way to promote and enhance the use of alternative fuels as a means to further improve as much as possible the environmental footprint of the different modes of transport.

"This strategy is important because it sets out a plan for Member States and stakeholders to work towards alternative fuels. We hope that this strategy is finalised soon, in view of giving the different stakeholders a clear sign on where to go and allowing them to start or continue working towards that goal. We therefore urge the Parliament and the Council to do everything possible to reach a first reading agreement", says ESPO's Secretary-General Isabelle Ryckbost.

Two of the issues under discussion are of importance for seaports: the deadline for the provision of LNG refuelling points in core network ports and the conditions under which shore side electricity has to be provided in ports.

European ports are in favour of the pragmatic approach that is taken by both European institutions regarding the deployment of LNG refuelling points in core TEN-T ports. The aim here should be the deployment of a sufficient network of LNG refuelling points taking market realities and distances between ports into account.

ESPO agrees with the Parliament that it makes sense for such an LNG refuelling network to be deployed already by 2020 in consistency with the entering into force of the sulphur Directive. It is of outmost importance though that the relevant co-funding possibilities for LNG projects are ensured also after the 2014- 2020 period.

As regards shore side electricity, ESPO considers a compromise obliging core TEN-T ports to provide shore side electricity wherever there is demand, the costs are not disproportionate to the benefits and there is significant positive impact on the environment, as acceptable for both institutions.

The deadline for meeting this obligation is of a lesser importance to ESPO. If, as a result of an assessment it seems that shore side electricity is the most viable solution for the whole or a part of the port, ports should not wait until 2020 or 2025.

Over the last years, and in absence of any regulatory obligation, several European ports have been actively supporting this technology and exploring the possibility of providing shore side electricity in their berths. In some cases, this has lead to successful implementation projects.

At the same time, shore-side electricity must be seen as one of the pillars of a more comprehensive clean fuel strategy and might in that respect not always score as the "best" solution in terms of environmental benefits in all ports or on all berths. Ports must assess the full picture and look at this technology in combination with LNG and other upcoming innovative solutions.

"The aim of this Strategy should be to push ports to reflect as soon as possible on their way to enhance the use of cleaner fuels. Shore side electricity is certainly one of the pillars of such a strategy and reflection. If cost-effective and wherever it comes out as the best environmental solution, it should be installed. But we should not see this technology in isolation.

For berths where only LNG fuelled ships are arriving, such a technology is completely redundant. It is also clear that technologies in the field are evolving constantly. We should give ports the possibility to adapt to and invest in those as well", adds Isabelle Ryckbost.


Published in Ports & Shipping

#EUtransTEN - The EU Parliament gave its final agreement on the European budget envelope for 2014-2020, the Trans European Network (TEN-T) and for financial Regulation, the Connecting Europe Facility.

EPSO, the European Seaports Organisation welcomed the Parliament's vote. This decision defines the EU's infrastructure policy for the coming decades and establishes a budget of €23.17 billion earmarked for priority transport projects for the financial period 2014-2020.

This means that the budget for financing transport infrastructure will be tripled compared to the last period (2007-2014). More than 320 sea ports feature on the new TEN-T maps and 94 ports are part of the core network.

ESPO's Secretary General Isabelle Ryckbost said: "This vote is an important step towards establishing a real transport "network". We fought hard to defend this budget and to have our ports well represented in the network and network corridors. We now look forward to see a fair share of these funds used to improve Europe's port infrastructure and to better integrate these core nodes in Europe's transport network. There is a plan, there is a budget".

She added, "Let us now start looking at the implementation. The core network corridors structures will be powerful instruments. I do hope ports will have their say in the set up and functioning of these corridor structures. Moreover, as ESPO we must also focus on the Motorways of the Sea priority. If well used, it can be an important instrument to increase intra-EU maritime transport and strengthen the cooperation between European ports".


Published in Ports & Shipping

#ShipRECYCLING - The European Parliament has adopted the new Ship Recycling Regulation by a large majority at a meeting in Strasbourg.

The final text is the result of a compromise reached last June between the Council under the Irish Presidency, the Parliament (Schlyter report) and the Commission.

The new EU Regulation will allow ships flying the flag of an EU member state to be scrapped outside the EU provided that strict standards are met. These standards effectively mean the end of "beaching" where ships are simply taken apart on a beach, with consequences for human health and the environment.

Regular inspections, Commission assessments and an increased role for NGOs will assist ensuring compliance with these standards. Finally, under the new Regulation, the Commission is required to come up with a proposal on the feasibility of an incentive mechanism 3 years after entry into force.

Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of ESPO welcomed the balanced outcome of the political process on ship recycling. "Conscious ship recycling is an important issue with serious social and environmental impacts. In that respect, ESPO urges Member States to ratify soonest the 2009 Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, allowing its global application".

"Furthermore, we remain at the disposition of all parties involved in view of further discussing the appropriate application of the polluter pays principle in ship recycling".
The legislative text will be formally adopted by the Council in the near future.

Published in Ports & Shipping

#ESPOTenTlist- The European Commission this week is gathering with all transport stakeholders in two Baltic Sea capitals, Helsinki and Tallinn for the 2013 TEN-T days.

The event comes at a very timely moment for a discussion on the way forward for the new TEN-T policy as well as its funding mechanism, the "Connecting Europe facility", which are just waiting their final adoption.

European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) welcomes the imminent adoption of the new TEN-T policy. The new European transport infrastructure framework is, indeed, fully recognising the importance of ports as crucial nodes of the network. It can further optimise the links between sea ports and their hinterland through the multimodal corridor approach.

In view of maximising the success of this new policy, ESPO asks its members to fully benefit from this new infrastructure policy. Ports should participate entirely in the multimodal corridor approach that has been put forward by the European Commission and should submit projects. Moreover, by giving hands-on information to the Commission about their investment needs, European ports can contribute to obtaining an efficient and sustainable multimodal European Transport Network.

ESPO believes, in that respect, that European port authorities should be adequately represented in the governance structures of the multimodal corridors and actively participate in their implementation. All corridors start and end in European ports. Therefore, European ports are key actors and this should be reflected in an active involvement in the planning and development of the corridors.
Roads should not be completely neglected as ESPO further stresses that since improving road access to ports is an important element in enhancing maritime transport and hence multimodality in some areas.

In addition, for European ports, Motorways of the Sea (MoS) is a crucial aspect of TEN-T. MoS can strengthen the link between the comprehensive ports of the network and the core ports and multimodal corridors.

It is important to define more precisely how this concept will be applied in the context of the new TEN-T policy. This could and should be done in close cooperation with the ports and their experts, who deal on a daily basis with short sea shipping.

Finally, to really boost the Motorways of the Sea between European ports, the Commission and Member States should step up efforts to realise the full internal market of maritime transport and to ensure efficient custom procedures in all European regions and ports.

"We entirely support Europe's new TEN-T policy and see it as a good basis for further developing Europe's transport infrastructure into a fully fledged multimodal, efficient and sustainable network in which ports are the cornerstones. The delivery of this new policy will however depend on its implementation.A lot of aspects still need to be clarified." says ESPO Secretary General, Isabelle Ryckboat.

"ESPO and its members are prepared to give input and look together with the other stakeholders and the Commission for the best ways to ensure a full application of the goals of this new TEN-T policy. We hope in that respect that ports will be heard and that they will play the role they deserve in the multimodal corridor".

Published in Ports & Shipping

#Port Policy – The Transport Committee of the European Parliament yesterday had a first exchange of view on the Commission Proposal for a Port Regulation, which was published in late May.

The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) acknowledges that the Commission proposal addresses some important conditions for ensuring port cargo handling on a level playing field:

by tackling the transparency of financing in ports,                                                                                                                                     by recognising the freedom to provide port services                                                                                                                                     by considering the setting of charges and the minimum requirements for port services as important tools of port management.

But the Commission proposal disappoints, since it partly undermines those principles:
by intervening in the commercial freedom of ports and port authorities to vary charges according to the port management's economic strategy;
by prescribing how ports and port authorities should deal with their clients;
by imposing additional administrative burden to ports which are not competing at the European scene;
by creating an independent supervisory body.

In that overall context, ESPO and its members cannot accept the regulation proposal as it stands.

"We welcome the fact that the Commission is considering European ports as engines for growth. European ports are facing enormous challenges: growing volumes, ever-increasing ships, further globalisation, increasing societal and environmental pressure. They need a policy that empowers them to meet these challenges, not rules that create additional burden for ports without real benefit for the port industry or the users. We hope European policy makers understand our concerns and want to work with us in view of obtaining a framework that means a step forward for every single port in Europe", says Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO's Secretary General.

ESPO fears that the Commission proposal in its current form will hamper well performing ports:

The diversity of the European port sector makes it impossible to frame all ports and their managing bodies within one stringent legal framework, without giving in on their specificity and on the particular role ports are playing for their national and regional economy.

Differences in size, geographical situation, governance, tasks, financial situation, etc. makes it very difficult to develop a set of rules that goes further than guiding principles.

Moreover, by restricting the commercial freedom of EU port authorities and interfering in port-related governance competences, the Regulation proposal could hamper the necessary transition of European port authorities towards dynamic port developers and worsen the position of ports which are already high performing.

Finally, European ports do not see the port regulation as the instrument that will improve the competitiveness of ports.

There are other, more important, factors that can enhance the level playing field in the port sector that need to be tackled: internal market for maritime transport, environmental rules affecting transport patterns and modes, unfair competition with third neighbouring countries, and burdensome customs procedures.

ESPO's full response to the proposed Port Regulation can be found HERE..


Published in Ports & Shipping

#HeritagePorts – What do the following five European ports; Antwerp, Cartagena, Dover, Livorno and Olso share in common?

The answer is that they have been selected for the shortlist of the European Sea Port Organisation's (ESPO) Award on Societal Integration of Ports.

The jury shortlisted the five port applications from a total of 14 submissions for the fifth edition of the ESPO Award. The theme of this year's competition is 'Heritage', because societal integration of ports also means focusing on the contemporary use and disclosure of port traditions.

The public interest in heritage has increased considerably in recent years and has gained strong tourist potential. Most ports boast rich collections of industrial and other heritage, including equipment, buildings and monuments.

This potential can be used in an innovative way not just to explain a port's history, but also to make the connection with present and future development. The iconic value and contemporary use of port heritage can also be employed as a strong promotion tool.

"Many European ports value and cultivate their heritage. Our job was to choose the most exciting projects among a very varied selection of them. Several stood out as particularly creative and visionary. Now we need to choose between them," said jury chairman John Richardson.

The winner of the fifth ESPO Award will be announced on 6 November, during the traditional ceremony that will be held at the Town Hall of Brussels.

The ESPO Award was established in 2009 to promote innovative projects of port authorities that improve societal integration of ports, especially with the city or wider community in which they are located. In this way, the Award wants to stimulate the sustainable development of European ports and their cities.

The shortlisted projects will be presented on the ESPO website in the running up to 6 November.


Published in Ports & Shipping

#BlueBelt - The European Commission launched recently the 'Blue Belt' communication, which contains two concrete proposals that will contribute to establishing an internal market for maritime transport.

The first proposal contains an improvement to the already existing Regular Shipping Services (RSS), which provide lighter customs procedures for shipping companies using a regular route within the EU and transporting mainly EU goods. New provisions, submitted by the Commission last June, will upgrade RSS to make the procedures shorter and more flexible.

The consultation period for Member States will be shortened from 45 to 15 days. And companies will be able to apply in advance for an authorisation for Member States where they may want to do business. This would save time if that business opportunity arises. These provisions are expected to make the scheme much more attractive to short sea operators.

RSS is however limited to vessels that call exclusively at EU ports. Almost 90% of ships carry both EU and non-EU goods and stop frequently at EU and non-EU ports, for example in Norway, Northern Africa and Russia. For these ships, the Commission is proposing to significantly improve customs procedures by putting in place a system which can distinguish between EU and non-EU goods on board.

For this purpose, the Commission will bring forward, before the end of 2013, a proposal to create a harmonised electronic cargo declaration. This 'e-Manifest' would allow a shipping company to provide in all manifests (intra-EU and extra-EU) information on the status of goods to customs officials.

"We welcome these proposals as a step in the right direction", said European Sea Port Organisation (ESPO) Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, "We especially look forward to contributing to the definition and implementation of the e-Manifest. Its data elements, functionalities and procedures should be carefully analysed to ensure smooth integration in port operations and processes."

The two proposals are expected to make the 'Blue Belt' in which ships can operate freely within the internal market, with a minimum of administrative burden, a reality by 2015. Currently, a ship moving between Antwerp and Rotterdam is still treated as though it came from China. This is because once ships leave Member States' territorial waters they are considered to pass the EU's external borders.

So ships travelling between ports in two different Member States are deemed to have left the EU Customs Territory and customs formalities are required when the vessel leaves the port of departure and again when the vessel arrives at the port of destination, even if both are EU ports.

Published in Ports & Shipping

#PortSector – European port employers representatives and trade union organisations are meeting in Brussels today for the official inauguration of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for the Port Sector.

The committee will act as a platform to discuss issues of European social reference for the sector. The work programme, which was formally adopted this morning, mainly focuses on health and safety matters associated with port work as well as training and qualifications.

Other topics include the impact of sulphur emission rules on port employment, the attractiveness of the sector to young workers and gender issues.

The social partners are FEPORT and ESPO on the employers' side and trade union organisations ETF and IDC. The participation of ESPO is limited to those countries where port authorities employ dockworkers or are otherwise involved in collective agreements between port employers and dockers' unions.

"We are pleased that the social dialogue got started and we hope to reach concrete results soon that will contribute positively to our sector", said ESPO Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, "At the same time, we must keep expectations realistic. This committee cannot and should not replace social negotiations and collective agreements at national or local port level. It will also be extremely difficult to deal with market and competition restrictions, given the specificities of individual cases."

The European Commission announced that it is willing to facilitate the social dialogue and respect the autonomy of social partners.

The Commission however indicated that, in time, it expects the social dialogue to also deal with labour conditions, on which a comprehensive fact-finding study was recently published by the Portius institute.
The Commission further intends to start a research project soon that will examine health and safety, training and qualification challenges in EU ports. Social partners will be involved in this project. An overall review of the social dialogue is planned for 2016, to assess progress made.


Published in Ports & Shipping

#ShippingReview: Over the last fortnight Jehan Ashmore has reported from the shipping scene where the fodder crisis, the worst in over 50 years has led to ports witness unprecedented levels of animal feed imports.

New Zealand ferry operator Interislander which has extended the charter of Dublin based ICG group ro-pax ferry Kaitaki is to receive a major refurbishment by Newry based MJM Marine.

Foynes is to welcome three cruise callers this season, starting with Voyages of Discovery's 15,396 tonnes Voyager.

Malta hosted the 6th European Maritime Day, where a conference of experts from all maritime sectors from around Europe and also present was Dinny McGinley TD, Minister of State who made a speech that was welcomed by the Marine Institute.

Vice President Siim Kallas European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, announced the publication of a regulation proposal on market access to port services and financial transparency, as well as a new communication on ports policy.

Another maiden port of call to Dublin Port was by the 95,000 tonnes MSC Magnifica, the 'Musica' class vessel built in 2010 is operated by MSC Cruises, which last year started calling to Irish ports.

European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) has appointed Isabelle Ryckbost as the new Secretary General, succeeding Patrick Verhoeven.

Also heard at the 10th agm of the ESPO conference held in Varna, Romania, was mixed reaction over the new ports policy on regulation and communication announced by the European Commission.


Published in Ports & Shipping
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