The agenda of the EU Institutions has during the last year to a large extent been dominated by safety and pollution issues. This was mainly due to the ERIKA foundering before the French coast in December 1999.
Having maritime safety and environment high on the agenda, ECSA has actively contributed to the discussions. Self evidently, our key message has been that safety and environment issues are best dealt with on the International level in view of the de facto global activities of the shipping industry.
We are pleased to note that the EU Institutions largely support this philosophy which is reflected in the ongoing discussions on the so called ERIKA packages. This philosophy has proved to be the right one since the IMO has succeeded in dealing efficiently with the problems at stake.
If there is enough political will and co-operation between industry and the relevant Governments satisfactory results can be obtained in a short time scale. Although complex and sensitive, the discussions on the accelerated phasing out of single hull tankers led to early decisions in IMO on a new phasing out scheme on a sound global basis. The political influence of EU Governments and the co-operation with the shipping industry made this possible. The expectations are that on the issue of Liability and Compensation of Oil Pollution a similarly efficient process can be effected in IMO.
Also on other key safety issues co-operation between the European shipping industry and the EU Institutions has been fruitful. The revision of the Port State Control Directive is an example. Long before the ERIKA disaster ECSA actively supported the ongoing strengthening of measures to achieve a more vigorous application of inspection duties of the signatories to the Paris MOU, and discussed with the Commission services detailed provisions within this aim. The proposed changes to the Directive after, debate and input from industry, went smoothly through the Council. The strict provisions relating to Member States obligations to refuse access to ports to sub standard vessels is of particular importance i.e. vessels not performing to the standards agreed internationally, based on the previous detention records. Regrettably, the Institutional process has delayed its final adoption and application.
Though having dominated the agenda over the last years, maritime safety is of course not the only item on the political agenda. Again within the global context of European shipping, much attention is being given to maritime relations with third countries. On the occasion of the ECSA workshop in October last year, the communication links on maritime external relations issues between industry and the EU Institutions were sharpened. DG TREN also agreed to take the ownership of this important file in co-operation with the different parties involved, including the various Commission services. We appreciated very much the involvement of Vice President Loyola de Palacio on relations with third countries, particularly her efforts to launch the discussions on a bilateral maritime agreement between the EU and China. Transport expertise will also be important in the further discussions on maritime services in the context of WTO.
A sound European maritime transport policy should be a basic element of the overall EU transport policy. In this respect useful steps have been taken over the last years. The promotion of short sea services, launched by the Maritime Industries Forum in 1992, is now firmly on the European agenda.
We are encouraged by the fact that according to recent Commission papers this environment friendly transport mode now represents 41 % in terms of tonnes/km of European transport. Efforts to further promote maritime transport and to improve its attractiveness in the overall supply chain should be continued.
In this respect the Commission Communication "Reinforcing Quality Service in Seaports: A key for European Transport" is very much welcomed by the shipping industry. Particularly, the proposed Directive on market access to port services represents a breakthrough for modernising and liberalising the port service sectors.
The proposed Directive is not only benefiting shipping. It will be also beneficial for industry generally, consumers and for society at large in the context of a sustainable transport policy. It will as well be to the advantage of ports since a more efficient and competitive port sector will attract more cargo.
A weakening of the Directive or the exclusion of some services, as suggested during the recent debates, would be counterproductive and be in conflict with existing EU policies. A constructive debate between the industry parties involved could certainly lead to clarification and solutions.
The case for a modal shift to environment friendly and non-congested transport modes is also brought forward in the recently issued policy guidelines on the White Paper on a Common Transport Policy. ECSA looks forward to an open debate on these important issues of European Transport policy following the recent adoption of the White Paper itself.
For the European industries, globalisation of trade represents a great opportunity in terms of new and larger markets to cover. This is especially so for European shipping, particularly taking into account the fact that more than 90 % of European external trade is carried over sea, that European shipping plays a key role in cross trades between different continents and controls over 40 % of the world fleet.
If Europe wants to play a strategic role in the new world economic order it needs a strong maritime presence and the maintenance of inherent maritime know how.
The Commission Communication on training and recruitment offers opportunities to reinforce the maritime know how basis in Europe. This should, however, not be diluted by dogmatic approaches on controversial issues, ignoring thereby the global character of the industry.
The European maritime base should be safeguarded on a long term basis taking into account the free and competitive global environment which is essential for its own well-being.
The structural competitive position of European shipping has gradually improved due to the enhanced application of measures by Member States on the basis of the State Aid Guidelines for maritime transport. It is essential that a durable and attractive investment climate for European shipping is further enhanced and maintained for the longer term.
The global competitive environment should thereby be the target. We have clear indications that the Commission services are behind this philosophy and are convinced that the further discussions with them will result in a durable regime for the future.
My predecessor Knud Pontoppidan has steered ECSA through often hectic times during the last years and I would like to commend him for his outstanding efforts.
I look forward to the same constructive co-operation with the EU Institutions as well as with the other industry parties which my predecessors have enjoyed over the years.
I am convinced that European quality shipping will continue to be the backbone of European and world trade.