Ahead of European elections, seaports unveil top 9 priorities

In view of the upcoming EU elections in June, the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) — which represents over 98% of the seaports of the European Union — has set its priorities for the next five years with a strong focus on energy transition.

Illustration. Image credit: Port of Antwerp

The world is in transition, ports are in transition. More than ever, ports are strategic entities and enablers of Europe’s ambitions and its sustainable, digital, competitive, strong and social future. Ports want to be part of the solution and are taking up new responsibilities on top of their traditional role as multimodal hub in the supply chain.

Entitled “a net-zero, smart, resilient and competitive Europe: Europe’s ports are part of the solution”, ESPO’s memorandum outlines nine priorities:

  • Focus on implementation: Europe’s ports ask policymakers to provide clarity and support to ports to ensure the effective implementation of existing regulations. In this context, incoherences or conflicting policies should be addressed.
  • Give ports the space to take up their role as facilitators of renewable energy. The energy transition will require space in ports; Permitting barriers should be removed; Ports should be actively considered when relevant energy policies, circular economy and carbon strategies are being developed; Riskier pioneering energy investments should be financially supported.
  • Reducing emissions and pollution is an important KPI for ports: Ports in Europe want an agreement on a well-defined global maritime GHG emission pricing mechanism; ports should be allowed to prioritize green investments where it makes most sense in terms of emission reduction; a continuous dialogue with stakeholders is needed to avoid stranded assets; the new 90% GHG emission reduction target must be seen as a stepping stone towards 2050.
  • The level playing field both within the internal market and vis-à-vis Europe’s neighbors must be safeguarded: Ports plead for a “do not harm competitiveness check” in EU policymaking; equal access and conditions to funding is key, diverging national approaches should be avoided; boosting net-zero industries implies reinforcing the relevant supply chains; the fair power play and level playing field within the maritime sector should be monitored closely.
  • Ports are pivotal in strengthening Europe’s resilience: Ports are an important pillar of Europe’s supply chain sovereignty; ports are in favor of a more harmonized approach to address foreign influence in ports; Europe must, however, remain an attractive place to invest; EU security measures should not stop trade, but make it safer.
  • Ports are partners in striving for a smart, but safe and secure cyber environment: Digitalization and smart technologies are crucial tools in making Europe’s ports more efficient, safe and sustainable; additional measures to step up cybersecurity and further digitalization might be needed; raising awareness of possible cyber risks is a shared responsibility among all port stakeholders.
  • Europe’s ports require 80 billion investment needs for the next 10 years: Ports more than ever need access to a robust funding support instrument, with dedicated port envelopes, to invest in projects with high societal value but an often slow, low and risky return on investment; European funding should be simple;
  • The EU institutional structure should be adapted to the new reality: A more integrated approach is needed when developing new policies: transport, and in particular ports, cannot be discussed in isolation; a closer cooperation between Commission DGs is needed; a continuous, transparent and open dialogue between stakeholders and EU policy makers is needed to tackle the complexity of today’s challenges.
  • Ports are a resource for the city: Their new roles can open doors for attracting new businesses and talents to the port and port cities; effective cooperation between all stakeholders is needed to attract people to the port, since ports cannot do the job without the right people.

In related news, eleven ports represented by ESPO have been certified through the EcoPorts’ Port Environmental Review System (PERS).

The ports in question are the Port of Algeciras, the Port of Barcelona, the Port of Klaipeda, the Ports of Niedersachsen, the Ports of Tenerife, the Port of Sevilla, the Port of Igoumenitsa, the Port of Waterford, the Port of Dover, the Port of Pori, and the Port of Vigo.

“Once again, we see that assessing your environmental performance is not something for only one kind of ports, but that small, big, northern, southern, eastern, western ports in Europe increasingly go for environmental certification,” Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO Secretary General, commented during the certificate award ceremony in Paris.

“I would like to congratulate all the PERS-certified ports on their achievement. Re-certification requires the port to show improved environmental management. Some are receiving the certificate for the sixth time already. It should be noted that the ports of Waterford, Klaipeda and Tenerife are getting PERS-certified for the first time. Many of the PERS-certified ports today are long-time members of the EcoPorts network and have made sustainability a core part of their mission. We look forward to working with all these ports in their continued efforts to engage in excellent environmental management,” Anaëlle Boudry, ESPO Senior Policy Advisor and EcoPorts Coordinator, said.

PERS is the only port-specific environmental standard. The last five years have seen important increases in its recognition and membership, with 90 ports from 27 countries currently counting themselves as part of the EcoPorts Network, and 33 ports holding PERS certification.