The aim should be to establish procedures that cut the overall lead time significantly
A recently completed study commissioned by the European Commission concludes that there is a "mounting need" for investments in ports in Europe, particularly for the handling of containers and liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to the European Sea Ports Organisation in its latest newsletter.
ESP says the study recommends that the procedures for environmental assessment and all related approvals that are in practice in the EU today should be assessed and reviewed. The aim should be to establish procedures that cut the overall lead time significantly without giving in to any of the environmental demands.
The so-called OPTIMAR study was prepared by an international consortium led by Lloyd"s Register-Fairplay. It contains an analysis of the geographical distribution and evolving patterns of seaborne trade, an outline of signals of future change in shipping, a SWOT analysis as well as a series of shipping scenarios and strategic recommendations.
Apart from the recommendation on port development and several recommendations on shipping issues as such, the consultants also find that competition in the provision of port services needs to be resolved in one way or another. Remarkably, they recommend that the Commission restarts work with a port package, possibly with a revised approach.
ESPO also notes that similar recommendations have been made by a group of senior shipping professionals which the Commission invited to deliver an independent opinion as part of the preparations on the Maritime Transport Strategy.
The group of twelve was chaired by Knud Pontoppidan, CEO of A.P. Moller-Maersk and assisted by rapporteurs Leo Delwaide, former President of the Antwerp Port Authority (photo) and Emanuele Grimaldi, CEO of Grimaldi Lines.
The experts recommend that the Commission ensures follow-up of its ports policy, aiming to clarify state aid and environmental rules in order to avoid litigation and ensure timely delivery of the required port capacities. A secure and predictable investment climate must be ensured, preserving the freedom of negotiation between port authorities and service providers.
The experts further believe that investment in port and hinterland infrastructure should be prioritised and that effective market forces should apply to port services, especially where it concerns ancillary services and protectionist employment rules.
Finally, the experts invite the Commission to monitor port developments in neighbouring countries in order to avoid unfair competition based on subsidies.