ANNUAL REPORT 2006-2007
3. Integrating ports in the supply chain
Part of the Commission’s port policy consultation focuses on the role of ports in the supply chain. Here a robust European framework exists already, which finds its basis in the 2001 Transport Policy White Paper and, in particular, its mid-term review which was published in June 2006.
ESPO very much welcomes the realistic course of the mid-term review, which implicitly recognises that growth in transport is here to stay and abandons previous theoretical thinking that transport growth can be decoupled from economic growth. ESPO also supports the sensible "co-modality" concept which judges each transport mode upon its own merits and introduces measures to improve the environmental performance of all.
Ports are nodal points par excellence and rely on all transport modes to fully play their role within the supply chain. ESPO recognises that, as explained in the first section of this Annual Report, the potential of inland navigation and rail transport as environmental-friendly alternatives to road transport is still not used to the full extent. Yet it is most doubtful whether theoretical solutions such as infrastructure charging - a Monster of Loch Ness which has recently reappeared under the disguise of "smart charging" - is the answer.
In ESPO’s view, it is rather a matter of improving service levels and infrastructure capacity. The European Commission has developed over the years the necessary framework to achieve this aim, in the context of its Trans-European Transport Network programme, its series of railway packages and - last year - its NAIADES programme for inland navigation. The priority is therefore to ensure that these measures are duly implemented. The problems with railway services and infrastructure in many ports demonstrate that a lot of work still needs to be done.
The ITMMA analysis in this report indicates that the changing logistics environment introduces new challenges for the relations between seaports and inland ports. Although seaport authorities - contrary to private terminal operators - still seem somehow reluctant to engage in advanced forms of strategic partnerships with inland ports, ESPO and the European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) have underlined the importance of such networks by formalising their co-operation at EU level through a "Platform of European Sea and Inland Ports" which was officially launched on 15 May 2007. The principal aim is to strengthen the European lobby of ports in Brussels as both representative organisations of port authorities have an increasingly common agenda. Under the platform both EFIP and ESPO will keep their own identity but will express joint opinions wherever this is feasible.
The European Commission has recognised the importance of logistic networks in its Communication on freight logistics which was published in October 2006. Yet it remains to be seen whether the Communication will lead to any concrete new measures which were not already introduced by the transport policy mid-term review, short sea shipping policy (on which a review was also published in 2006) and the Maritime Policy Green Paper.
The proposed resurrection of the European Intermodal Loading Unit (EILU) does in any case not seem to bring any added value as long as there is no market demand. What would be of interest to the port sector though would be a measurement standard for ro-ro units, similar to the existing TEU standard for containers. The Port of Gothenburg, the UK Chamber of Shipping and Lloyd’s Register have developed a proposal in this sense which is endorsed by ESPO and has been presented to the Commission and Eurostat for support.
The Logistics Communication and the Maritime Policy Green Paper both introduce the concept of the Common Maritime Space. Although this proposal initially created a lot of confusion, the recent clarification by Transport Commissioner Barrot that its sole purpose is to give intra-European shipping the same flexibility in administrative terms as land-based transport modes makes it a very welcome initiative.
The concept of the Common Maritime Space is closely linked to the development of the Motorways of the Sea, the network which intends to reinforce the position of short sea shipping and ports in the Trans-European Transport Networks. With a first call for proposals being scheduled for December 2007, ESPO has set up an internal forum to compare the different initiatives that are being undertaken within the various maritime regions of Europe. Aim is to learn from practical experience, focusing especially on the selection of projects and ports and ways to avoid possible negative implications in terms of distortion of competition.
The market section of this report points at the importance of having critical mass and adequate
hinterland connections which evidently does not make every port suitable to become a Motorway of the Sea port. Cost-effective exploitation of services with a high frequency is a must for viable competition with road transport. Artificially setting up such services with European funding however entails the risk that cargo is simply shifted from existing services and ports rather than from roads.
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