ESPO: Ports can play important role in delivering EU Green Deal but clearer strategy needed

Europe’s ports can be a strategic partner in making the European Green Deal happen but a more specific strategy in this respect is needed, the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) pointed out.

In its new position paper on the recently unveiled EU Mobility Strategy, ESPO welcomed the ambition of the strategy to deliver the Green Deal transport target to reduce GHG emissions by 90% while also working towards zero pollution in the sector. 

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“ESPO fully supports the intention to make all transport modes sustainable and to shift towards more sustainable solutions. ESPO very much subscribes to the technology-neutral approach the Commission is pursuing,” the Brussels-based organization representing seaports said.

As explained, ESPO considers the “zero-emission port” flagship as an encouragement of the current efforts Europe’s ports are already making to facilitate emission reduction and to contribute to the energy transition of Europe’s economy. It welcomes in that regard the recognition of ports as clean energy hubs.

However, the organization said it hopes that this recognition will be followed by a more specific strategy to assist seaports in this role. Such a strategy should include support for the necessary infrastructure and facilities in seaports for the supply and transport of new energies, in particular hydrogen, recognition for the role of pipelines and more in general stronger synergies between transport and energy policies.

The EU’s strategy lacks a holistic vision on how to strengthen the role of ports as engines of growth and recovery, ESPO added.

Over the last months, Europe’s ports have proven essential in ensuring the continuity of supply chains. In parallel, ports are proving resilience and agility when it comes to preparing for the Brexit implementation. Moreover, if Europe aims at being the world’s connectivity hub, it should embrace its seaports as major gateways for trade, linking Europe with the world, the organization stressed.

In addition, considering their important role as multimodal hubs, key nodes of energy and clusters of industry, ports form part of Europe’s strategic infrastructure and should be supported in this role. In light of strengthening Europe’s economic resilience and strategic autonomy, ports’ connectivity is instrumental and port areas can play an important role in building strategic reserves, as location for re-shoring sectors, or new activities such as circular economy and offshore, according to ESPO.

“Over the last year, the European Commission has been outlining important ambitions for Europe. Both the Green Deal, the Next Generation EU and the Open Strategic Autonomy approach for trade are crucial strategies for enhancing Europe’s growth, future and resilience in the world,” Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO’s Secretary General, commented.

“Maritime ports are at the crossroads of these strategies and are a critical factor for delivering those. We see a recognition of the comprehensive role of ports in the mobility strategy. We now look forward to further discussing with the Commission what is really needed to assist and enable ports in Europe to play their role as engines of growth and recovery as best as they can,” Ryckbost concluded.