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    ome 90 % of the goods traffic to and from theEuropean Union is transported by sea. The

    European Union has adopted a range of

    rules on maritime safety and security to

    ensure quality shipping that respects the environ-

    ment and guarantees an optimal level of protection

    for European citizens.

    In addition, the maritime sector contributes to the

    competitiveness of European business with effective

    solutions to the growing mobility of people and goods.

    Europe has adopted rules to protect the environment

    and promote economic activity. Operators benefit

    from a level playing field and equitable, competitiveconditions compared with those who do not respect

    the rules of the game. Seafarers benefit in terms of

    their standard of working conditions and mutual

    recognition of quality training.

    The European Union has therefore defined a global

    strategy intended to make the Communitys fleet

    more competitive, by creating a level playing field

    within the Union and by means of multilateral agree-

    ments providing open access to maritime transport


    If it is essential to have rules,it is equally essential thatthey are applied.The Commission ensures that this is

    the case in the Member States through the European

    Maritime Safety Agency. This Agency has recently

    been established in Lisbon and is now fully opera-

    tional, able to assist the Commission and Member

    States to apply European regulations on safety, the

    prevention of and fight against pollution and the

    training of seafarers.

    Finally, recent developments within the International

    Maritime Organisation and the International Labour

    Organisation have confirmed the important role of

    the European Union at international level.

    With successive enlargements, including the one tak-

    ing place on 1 January 2007, Europe now has a privi-leged position, thanks both to the length of its coast-

    lines and the importance of its maritime sector.

    Maritime transport in Europe has the wind in its sails!

    Jacques Barrot

    Vice-President responsible for transport








    ver the centuries, Europes economic successhas been built on its use of maritime trans-

    port to trade with the rest of the world.

    Today, almost 90 % of the European Unions

    external trade and more than 40 % of its inter-

    nal trade goes by sea.That equates to about 3.5 billion

    tonnes of freight loaded and unloaded in EU ports

    every year. The EUs thriving maritime industries

    include shipbuilding, ports, fishing and a number of

    related activities and services employing about 3 mil-

    lion people in total. The EU is committed to support-

    ing those sectors so it continues to thrive and pro-

    vides jobs in an innovative, safe and environmentally

    sustainable manner.

    A level playing fieldfor the EU fleet

    Over the past few decades, the EU-flagged merchant

    fleet has faced strong competition from non-EU

    flagged ships. And this competition has not always

    been fair as a result of more favourable tax regimes

    and, above all, lower labour costs. Competitors have

    gained this advantage through social and safety con-

    ditions below European norms and standards, and

    even by not respecting international rules.

    In 1997, the Commission adopted guidelines for state

    aid, placing the emphasis on improving employment,

    skills and safety in the maritime sector.The guidelines

    also allowed EU staff working on European-registered

    ships to benefit from reduced tax and social security

    contributions.As a result of this Commission initiative,

    figures show that the European-flagged fleet has

    increased significantly since 1997.

    New guidelines

    In 2004, the Commission adopted further improved

    guidelines designed to speed up the re-flagging

    process. In particular, they address shipowners who

    operate less than 60 % of their tonnage under EU

    flags, in Member States where EU registration of ship-

    ping has decreased in the preceding three years.The

    aim is to encourage shipowners to maintain the ton-

    nage they register under an EU flag, or risk losing out

    on aid they may receive for additional ships sailingunder third-country flags.This initiative has produced

    even more dramatic results.

    Supporting Europes islands

    Europe has scores of islands whose sparse popula-

    tions rely on sea transport links and ferry services that

    are not always profitable.Without access to the main-

    land many of these communities would wither and

    die. While the EU does not allow transport subsidies

    that can distort competition, Community regulations

    do permit public subsidy for services to and from,andbetween, islands, as long as they are awarded trans-

    parently and there is no discrimination against other

    transport operators.

    Sustainable maritimeemployment and trainingfor Europes seafarers

    Well-trained, motivated seafarers are essential for the

    operation of the EU fleet. Without good quality per-sonnel, ship operations simply cannot be run safely

    and efficiently.

    While demand is increasing, there has been an acute

    shortage (1) of European seafarers mainly officers

    in Europe. This is expected to rise considerably if no

    corrective measures are taken. In 2002, the EU fleet

    had a shortfall of around 30 000 trained officers a

    deficit of about 30 %.

    The Commissions 2001 communication on training

    and recruitment brought to light this growing decline

    of European seafarers, and recommended actions to

    reverse the trend. In particular, it encourages nationalmaritime training systems to share best practice and

    includes measures to raise awareness about seafaring


    More recently, in response to conclusions adopted by

    the Council in 2003 on Improving the image of

    Community shipping and attracting young people to

    the seafaring professions (2), the Commission pre-

    sented a working document on the main components

    of its action in the field of maritime employment (3).


    (1) Joint Study of the Federation of Transport Workers Unions in the European Union (FST) and of the European Community Shipowners

    Associations (ECSA):Improving the employment opportunities for EU seafarers: An investigation to identify seafarerstraining and educa-

    tion priorities (1998); Study on the maritime professions in the European Union (financed by the Commission in 1996) and the Metharresearch project (harmonisation of European maritime education and training schemes, which was funded by the Commission under the

    fourth framework programme for research and technological development).

    (2) Conclusions adopted on 5 June 2003, during the Greek Presidency.

    (3) SEC(2005)1400/2, 11.11.2005.



    Forging relationsin a global market

    Countries outside the EU may be competitors in the

    global market, but good relations are essential if the

    worlds sea lanes and ports are to support interna-

    tional trade. The EUs strategy is to maintain and

    improve relations in the context of liberalising, wher-

    ever possible, services for maritime transport, while

    securing non-discriminatory treatment for EU ships in

    third-country ports. To this end, the EU has recently

    forged agreements with countries like Russia,Ukraine

    and South Korea that allow for mutual access to themarket for maritime transport services, and provide

    the right to establish maritime companies. The EU

    concluded a shipping agreement with China in

    December 2002 and is currently in similar negotia-

    tions with India.

    The European Commission also takes part in regular

    talks on international maritime policy, especially relat-

    ing to issues such as market regulation and safety.

    It coordinates Europes point of view in negotiating

    forums such as the International Maritime Organi-

    sation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation

    (ILO) where it recently contributed to the adoption ofthe Convention on Maritime Labour Standards on

    23 February 2006.

    Maritime innovation,research and development

    The Commission is committed to supporting maritime

    research. Indeed, a plethora of R & D activities relating

    to sea transport have been funded over the years

    through the EUs framework programmes for research.

    The aim is to improve the safety and efficiency ofmaritime transport, as well as its environmental


    Maritime research was given a significant boost in

    2005 with the establishment of Waterborne, an EU-

    backed technology platform. Waterborne promises

    to bring together relevant stakeholders, improving

    the coherence of research in the sector.

    The main ongoing research activity conducted by the

    Energy and Transport DG in this area is the four-year

    MarNIS project started in November 2004. The results

    will prepare e-Maritime, a step change in the use of

    information technology in the sector. MarNIS aims at

    developing systematic use of modern localisation

    and telecommunication techniques for all operatorsin the maritime sector. This would allow both better

    observance of all the wide-ra