PROMOTION OF SHORT SEA SHIPPING
The promotion of Short Sea Shipping remained high on the agenda of the Commission and industry parties involved. On the basis of the input of the National Focal points on Short Sea shipping, the Promotion Bureaux and the industry (MIF - Maritime Industries Forum), the Commission services produced a bottleneck exercise on issues hindering this attractive transport mode. Specific attention is being given to bottlenecks in ports and port services and those related to documentary procedures such as on customs, dangerous cargoes, veterinary and sanitary issues and commercial documents.
The proposed Commission Directive on the use of IMO FAL forms for the clearing of ships upon entering and leaving EU ports will help to alleviate documentary procedures. Further steps are however necessary since the principle of free movement of goods, persons and services within the Single Market is not yet a reality in short sea shipping.
ECSA therefore welcomes the initiative of the Belgian Presidency to organise a Workshop on Documentary Procedures on 20 November 2001 in Brussels in co-operation with the Commission services and the Maritime Industries Forum. The national Focal Points on short sea shipping, the Promotion Bureaux, the Commission services and industry will have the possibility to consider further improvements in the documentary procedures related to short sea shipping on the basis of a study made by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Belgian Presidency.
It is encouraging to note that Short Sea Promotion Bureaux have now been created in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. In Spain the establishment of a Bureau is in process. The Bureaux contribute in a practical manner and on a day-to-day basis to the modal shift to short sea services.
ECSA noted with pleasure from recent Commission documents that short sea shipping now has a market share of 41 % in tonne kilometres. This is remarkable progress since the promotion of short sea services was launched in the Maritime Industries Forum in 1992.
Ongoing efforts are, however, necessary since the modal shift to short sea transport is a long term exercise. The close co-operation between the Commission services, the National Focal Points, the Promotion Bureaux and the Maritime Industries (MIF) is a sound basis for the further work.
In this respect the political will of the EU Institutions to enhance this modal shift as brought forward in the forthcoming Commission's White Paper on a Common Transport Policy is appreciated. Evidently all issues brought forward in the White Paper will need further discussion once published. Also the proposed Marco Polo programme supports this philosophy. ECSA is involved in constructive discussions with the Commission services to ensure that the policy intentions are properly applied in practice without distorting competition internally.
COMMUNICATION ON PORTS AND PORT SERVICES
A first step in the right direction
The Commission issued in February 2001 its long awaited Communication on Ports and Port Services under the title "Reinforcing Quality Service in sea ports: A key for European Transport". As expected, most attention is given to the proposed Directive on free market access to port services.
The bottleneck exercise made by the Commission on ports and port services in the context of the promotion of short sea transport clearly demonstrates the necessity of enhanced action to liberalise and modernise the European port sector. Also, the different approaches made by ECSA towards different ports in Europe, particularly for short sea roro services, confirm the urgent need to liberalise the port service sector.
Moreover, as recognised by the EU Institutions, efficient ports and maritime transport are essential for the EU general interest, for sustainable mobility and for European internal and external trade. Indeed, more than 90 % of Europe's external trade is transported over sea. It is self evident that the EU policy of promoting short sea shipping will also benefit from the Commission's proposals.
ECSA welcomed the proposed Directive on port services as a first and necessary step in the efforts to raise the efficiency of the European transport chain and to optimise the use of maritime transport.
The industry is pleased to note that the basic principles submitted jointly by ECSA and ESC (European Shippers' Council) in 1998 as a follow up to the Green Paper on Ports, addressing the liberalisation of port services have, to a large extent, been taken into account in the proposed Directive. In particular: open markets, free and fair competition between and within ports, no imposed services, fair and transparent pricing and the abolition of outmoded labour practices.
ECSA strongly believes that it is essential that these principles are respected in the practical application of the Directive. A watering down of the basic principles would be counterproductive to the ongoing process of increasing the efficiency and the competitiveness of maritime transport in the overall supply chain. Also, the suggestions made to exclude some services from the scope of the proposed Directive are ill founded and in contradiction with agreed EU policies.
The proposed Directive can of course be further improved and clarified. ECSA has therefore made constructive and practical suggestions such as: an extension of the scope to access to ports services e.g. towage and pilotage on rivers and canals and the establishment of Users and Advisory Committees in line with Directive 96/67/EC on ground handling for airports. Such Committees could deal with exceptional cases avoiding thereby a bureaucratic approach. In addition, some definitions need clarification in order to prevent misinterpretation and/or abuses.
ECSA also feels that the philosophy followed in the Commission Communication in respect of transparency and competition between ports i.e. the application of the Transparency Directive 80/723/EEC, as well as the guidelines mentioned in the Commission Communication, are going in the right direction and may possibly lead to specific State Aid Guidelines for ports.
During the discussions on the Commission Communication on Ports and Port Services it became clear that Europe needs a clear, proactive and modern port policy. The European shipping industry is keen in this context to contribute to the development of the necessary instruments in consultation with the different parties involved.
MARITIME INDUSTRIES FORUM (MIF)
A more practical approach
Following the Helsinki Plenary of the Maritime Industries Forum in June 2000 a bottom up, practical approach was launched in three different co-ordination groups: Transport/shipping/services, Shipbuilding /engineering/manufacturing and Human resources. The group on Shipbuilding mainly concentrated on the Korean shipbuilding case with the aim of finding a solution to the unnatural overcapacity created by Korean shipbuilding. The Human Resources Group is putting its main accent on the shortage of maritime know how, thereby concentrating on the recruitment, training, retraining, carrier planning and competitive position of European seafarers.
As co-ordinator of the Group Transport / shipping / services ECSA has endeavoured to ensure that the work of the MIF group coincides and complements the work programme of the Commission services. In this context, and with the Commission's bottleneck exercise on short sea shipping as a basis, specific attention has been given to port services and documentary procedures.
On port services individual approaches were made towards the National Focal Points on short sea shipping with the aim of solving specific problems in their national ports. This approach is evidently related to the philosophy of the 1997 Green Paper on Ports and to the proposed Commission Directive on port services.
On documentary procedures, similar action is being taken on specific National problems brought forward in the bottleneck exercise. Such issues will be further debated in the Workshop on documentary procedures for short sea shipping organised by the Belgian Presidency on 20 November in which the MIF industries will play a key role.
Other issues addressed in the MIF Transport Group are the lack of statistical data on cargo movements within Europe and measurements and weights of cargo units.
Progress on the above work will be reported on at the MIF Plenary meeting taking place in Valencia on 29/30 October in the presence of Vice President Loyola de Palacio and Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
APPLICATION OF COMPETITION RULES
It has been a relatively quiet year in relation to the application of Competition Rules on maritime liner services.
No new Regulations have been introduced, however, the discussions on the reform of the implementation laws of Competition Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty continue. ECSA has submitted constructive comments to the Commission services aiming at legal certainty and to avoid a boosting of legal cases.
ECSA hopes that these comments will be taken into consideration in the further process.
Despite the opposition from major Member States, the OECD secretariat is continuing its work on a reform of anti trust immunity for liner conferences and another workshop is scheduled for December 2001. Taking into account that the basic principles are being determined in the main trading areas and are gradually becoming in line, ECSA feels that the review exercise is superfluous and creates legal uncertainty and confrontation.
The court cases involving TAA, TACA, FEFC and FETTCSA are in continuing as is the process of establishing guidelines for the future regime for liner conferences and it is hoped that a solution can be found in the near future.