EU Shipping Law

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Short sea shipping

A. Introduction

41.001 Short sea shipping is, as its name suggests, the transport of goods or passengers by sea but over very short distances. It often has the attraction of diverting traffic which would otherwise be on land (e.g. by road or rail) to the sea. The European Union (“EU”) has been keen for various reasons (e.g. the protection of the environment) to divert cargo to short sea shipping. The EU has the aim of reducing 60% of the current level of greenhouse gas emissions generated by transport and by 2030 bringing about a shift of 30% of road freight carried over 300 kilometres to other modes. Shortsea Promotion Centres have been established in nearly all the coastal Member States. Moreover the European Commission has helped establish the European Shortsea Network. 41.002 Short sea shipping is extremely important in the EU. The total gross weight of goods transported as part of EU short sea shipping is estimated at almost 1.9 billion tonnes of goods in 2016, an increase of 2.6% from the previous year.1 The UK remained the major short sea shipping country in the EU in 2016, with a share of more than 14% of the total tonnages of EU short sea shipping in 2016.2

B. 1996: Council Resolution on short sea shipping

41.003 On 11 March 1996, the Council adopted a resolution on short sea shipping.3 The resolution stated:
  • “A. Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,
    • Considering the White Paper on the future development of the common transport policy, of 2 December 1992,4 which was welcomed by the Council at its meetings held on 7 and 8 June and 19 June 1993;
    • Considering the Commission communication on short sea shipping, of 5 July 1995;5 Considering the importance of transport for the economy of the European Union;
    • Considering the increasing degree of congestion in general and the high costs which characterize land transport infrastructure;
    • Considering the potential contribution that short sea shipping could make to the achievement of sustainable mobility;
    • Considering that, in view of the foregoing, efforts are called for both at Community level and at the level of Member States to promote or improve short sea shipping, while respecting the free choice of users;

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      Considering that, where obstacles prevent the development of short sea shipping, remedial action should be taken by regional, local or port authorities and by the maritime industries themselves;
  • B. NOTES:
    • 1. the considerable advantages presented by short sea shipping for the European Union in comparison with land transport, in particular:
      • (a) the general availability of space capacity in short sea shipping;
      • (b) lower energy consumption and lower levels of emission of pollutants into the atmosphere;
      • (c) potential contribution to the development of peripheral regions of the European Union;
      • (d) possibility to extend short sea shipping further with few infrastructure costs;
    • 2. the reports and the agreed multiannual work programmes adopted by various Conferences on shipping in different areas, such as the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea;
    • 3. the reports and proposals by the Maritime Industries Forum on the advisability of promoting short sea shipping as a viable alternative, in economic, energy, safety and environmental terms, to land transport;
  • C. STATES that the main objectives of short sea shipping policy are:
    • 1. to achieve a balanced growth of this mode of transport; and
    • 2. positive and active integration of short sea shipping, including feeder services, into the intermodal transport chain,
  • D. INTENDS to pursue these objectives by encouraging the following actions:
    • 1. developing further the environmental benefits of short sea shipping;
    • 2. promoting, in the interest of the users, free and fair competition between modes of transport in which all modes bear their full costs, including external costs;
    • 3. fostering of free and fair competition between Community ports and between shipping lines;
    • 4. improving port efficiency in order to reduce the costs of, and time spent in, port operations;
    • 5. making use of combined transport for the development of short sea shipping;
    • 6. promoting the confidence of shippers and transport undertakings in the possibilities of short sea shipping;
    • 7. streamlining and, where appropriate, coordinating, harmonizing and simplifying customs procedures and other related administrative formalities which arise in harbours;
    • 8. encouraging initiatives by shipping undertakings involved in short sea shipping;
    • 9. drawing up and implementing pilot projects concerning short sea shipping, where these do not distort competition between transport modes or between shipping companies or ports of all Member States, and disseminating the results;
    • 10. supporting training, research and development in the area of short sea shipping and port activities;
    • 11. supporting and expanding electronic data interchange (EDI),
    • 1. welcomes in general the action programme contained in the Communication by the Commission;
    • 2. notes that the Commission will submit as soon as possible its Green Paper on the internalization of external costs in transport;
    • 3. notes that the Commission will develop as soon as possible guidelines on State aid to shipping and to ports and will consult the Member States and the maritime industries on these guidelines;
    • 4. agrees that the promotion of short sea shipping should continue to be an important element in ongoing Community and Member States’ activity such as the trans-European transport network plan and the Fourth Framework Programme on Research and Development;

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    F. INVITES THE COMMISSION to propose to the Council or to develop, as soon as possible, the measures necessary to attain the objectives stated in part C taking into account its action programme and the subsidiarity principle, and in particular measures which:
    • 1. prevent distortion of competition between ports;
    • 2. promote the increased use of short sea shipping among its potential users;
    • 3. simplify and streamline existing customs procedures and other related administrative formalities which arise in ports, with regard to short sea shipping;
    • 4. encourage initiatives by shipping undertakings involved in short sea shipping;
    • 5. support programmes of training, research and development in this transport sector;
    • 6. encourage the use of information technology for the best development of this mode of transport,
    • 1. to support the objectives and the means stated in parts C and D;
    • 2. to cooperate with the Commission in setting a Community framework to promote the short sea shipping sector;
    • 3. to carry out actions to stimulate short sea shipping, taking into account the proposed action programme of the Commission’s communication and to encourage their regional, local and port authorities and maritime industries to do likewise;
    • 4. to promote practical consultations, for example through round tables such as those of the Maritime Industries Forum in which the maritime industries and regional, local and port authorities are represented.”

C. 2000: Resolution on the promotion of short sea shipping

41.004 On 14 February 2000, the Council adopted a resolution on the promotion of short sea shipping.6 The EU, particularly the Commission, has been a strong supporter of short sea shipping. The resolution began by welcoming the second Commission communication on the development of short sea shipping in Europe and noted that it incorporated the second two-yearly report on progress in the development of short sea shipping requested by the Council in its Conclusions of 18 June 1997. It noted with satisfaction that the Commission’s communication presented a thorough review of the development of short sea shipping, identified the main problem areas where further action was needed to promote short sea shipping, outlined a comprehensive long term approach for the development of short sea shipping and made recommendations for a number of actions to be undertaken by all parties. It reconfirmed the objectives and recommendations for action contained in the Council Resolution of 11 March 1996 on short sea shipping and in the Council Conclusions of 18 June 1997 and noted that actions had already been undertaken and initiated on the basis of these recommendations. The resolution confirmed that short sea shipping is an environmentally friendly transport mode which contributes to the sustainability of transport, strengthens the cohesion of the Community and contributes to an increased efficiency of the EU’s transport system. The resolution also emphasised as a priority objective of the Council the development of short sea shipping into a dynamic part and a viable option in the intermodal door-to-door transport chain between all EU regions. It also considered that the promotion of short sea shipping in all its aspects, such as container and bulk transport, is an ongoing process, which needs to be accelerated with

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short, medium and long term actions, while respecting the EU rules, among others those governing maritime cabotage. It also reconfirmed its view that it is primarily up to the industries themselves to develop short sea shipping and that the Council, the Member States and the Commission have an essential role to play, in particular concerning the framework conditions. The resolution recalls that, in its report to the European Council of Helsinki on a strategy on the integration of environment and sustainable development into the transport policy, the Council addresses the need of “promoting short sea shipping, focusing in particular on the removal of obstacles for its development as an environmentally friendly transport mode” and invited the Member States and the Commission to take measures in several areas, which equally lead to promoting short sea shipping. The resolution considered that the comprehensive approach presented in the Commission communication forms a good and constructive basis for the future work on reaching the abovementioned priority objective and welcomed, in general, the recommendations for the development of short sea shipping included in that communication. 41.005 The resolution continues:
  • “(10) IS OF THE VIEW that it is essential to find practical solutions to existing bottlenecks which hamper the development of short sea shipping and, at this stage of the development process, to focus on certain fields of action and, in particular, on:
    • (a) improving the efficiency of the maritime loading and unloading points in the logistics chain (i.e. intermodal connection points such as ports, terminals etc.) by streamlining the administrative procedures and by developing services and technical infrastructures (i.e. land-based facilities, hinterland connections, loading units etc.);
    • (b) promoting door-to-door package solutions with integrated facilities, such as one-stop shops, through the cooperation between the different transport modes and the different players in the logistic management of the supply chain, through the establishment of best practices, through the examination, with a view to their introduction, of measures such as benchmarking and key performance indicators, through the collection and dissemination of data and information on short sea shipping, amongst others using Eurostat, and through the active use of the cooperation framework provided by the round-tables and the focal points of the Member States and other national initiatives to promote short sea shipping such as national short sea shipping information offices;
    • (c) creating and testing new technical and market opportunities for short sea shipping, also over distances shorter than its current average distance, by promoting research and development, in particular in respect of land-based facilities, information technologies and ships specially adapted for short sea shipping; in addition, it is recommended to study possibilities for short term financial support for new projects and for the further development of existing projects in this field;
    • (d) creating a level playing field for short sea shipping by achieving further progress in fair and efficient pricing for infrastructure, taking into account the work of the Commission’s High Level Group on transport infrastructure charging.
  • (11) INVITES the parties concerned, including the industries, the transport users, the Member States and the Commission to work actively towards fulfilling the priority objectives and the tasks identified under point 10, and to cooperate towards finding concrete solutions to obstacles standing in the way of the development of short sea shipping.”
41.006 The Council invited the Commission to continue and intensify its work for the promotion of short sea shipping, in particular by:

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    “(a) initiating urgently an exercise of compiling, with input from the focal points and other interested parties, a detailed list of bottlenecks and other specific problems and their potential solutions, such as best practices;
  • (b) examining and consulting the parties concerned as soon as possible with a view to presenting proposals and/or encouraging the introduction of codes of conduct to simplify and streamline transport-related administrative formalities and documentation in short sea shipping, in particular as regards the uniform application of IMO FAL forms in the Community;7
  • (c) presenting its inventory of the public financial support to ports and proposals on the access to the market for port services, while taking into account the diversity of circumstances prevailing in the Community ports, such as their peripheral location, as well as public service obligations and the need to maintain a high level of safety;
  • (d) examining the possibility of earmarking more existing Community financial resources to the promotion of short sea shipping, of finding further possibilities for such funding, and of creating, in accordance with the rules of the Treaty on State aid and competition, a framework enabling the participation of national resources in initiating new short sea projects;
  • (e) developing tools to measure emissions from door-to-door transport chains containing a short sea leg in comparison with transport in one single mode, in order to facilitate a reasoned choice of transport modes;
  • (f) following short sea shipping market developments and collecting and disseminating factual information on short sea shipping and its potential;
  • (g) studying, in coordination with Short Sea Shipping Focal Points, the competitiveness of door-to-door transport chains containing a short sea leg as compared with other transport modes in relation to transport price in a segmented market;
  • (h) taking the needs of short sea shipping constantly into consideration in the application and planning of Community actions and in regional cooperation with the third countries concerned.”
41.007 The Council invited the Commission to transmit to the Council its next progress report in 2001 and to extend this report to passenger transport in addition to cargo transport.

D. 2000: Resolution on the promotion of intermodality and intermodal freight transport in the European Union

41.008 On 14 February 2000, the Council adopted a second resolution in the maritime field – this resolution was on the promotion of intermodality and intermodal freight transport in the EU.8 It welcomed the Commission Communication on Intermodality and Intermodal Freight Transport in the European Union of October 1999 and the Communication on the Progress of the Implementation of the Action Programme of June 1997 contained in it. It noted, with satisfaction, that most projects in the action programme have been launched and encouraged the Commission to continue its implementation. The Council is of the opinion that functional and logistically efficient freight transport systems contribute to the development of economic activity within the Community for the benefit of its citizens and enterprises. It endorsed the objective set by the Commission to develop Intermodal Freight Transport, i.e. an optimal integration of different transport modes enabling

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an efficient and cost-effective use of the transport system through seamless, customer-oriented door-to-door services, whilst favouring competition between transport operators. The resolution recalled that the Council strategy of 6 October 1999 on the integration of environment and sustainable development into the transport policy

“underlines that further progress is required, notably in the … promotion of … intermodal and combined transport … the standardisation and harmonisation of intermodal transport units … the competitiveness and the quality of services of ports and other intermodal terminals and railways, e.g. by the increased use of telematics … (and the study of) the different liability regimes.”

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