Global political power shifts make it important not only to have good maritime infrastructure, as mentioned above, but also to protect it properly. This not only involves energy installations, but also underwater infrastructure for data cables, for instance. Commercial shipping thus plays an indispensable role in Europe’s security and autonomy.
The EU needs an advanced transport and energy network that optimises the use of the available space. In European waters, not all opportunities have been utilised yet to relieve the limited space for roads and railways on land.
Sea shipping is also a sensible choice from the perspective of the climate challenge. Waterborne transport is (already) the least polluting mode of transport for large volumes.
Illustration: Positions of seagoing ships of KVNR-members in European waters (January 2024)
Scaling up the availability of clean energy carriers (new, clean fuels) is strongly needed. To obtain these necessary carriers, the EU cannot do without international trade agreements. The required innovations also include solutions that reduce fuel consumption (increasing efficiency), as well as the shift towards European standardisation for providing low-power shore-side electricity. Additionally, the EU government plays a driving role in promoting investments in the development and scaling of innovative technologies.
The shipping industry is part of a broad and diverse maritime ecosystem. Seafarers take experience and maritime knowledge with them when they finish their careers at sea and continue working at, for instance, a shipowner’s shore organisation, a shipbuilder, a nautical college, a maritime research agency or the government. A strong and sustainable shipping sector needs qualified people who pursue a maritime career and have the skills of the future. European funds for (re)training existing workers and inclusive recruitment of new talent are essential for the success of this transition.
Seizing economic opportunities can only be done through a European integrated plan that ensures the availability of space for shipping lanes, wind farms and other offshore infrastructure. Now that activities in the marine space, such as the North Sea, are increasing, collaboration and coordination are necessary for continuous safe spatial planning.
Global agreements and laws already contribute to the resilience of social agreements and a progressively safer and cleaner sector. Such agreements are the foundation for a global level playing field for international shipping. The global nature of the sector should therefore always be taken into account when creating European shipping policies.
Illustration: World trade fleet of 68,039 ocean-going ships, by number of ships per ship manager.
At the same time, the European Union is ambitious in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Ambitions that are also expressed by the sector. Concrete steps are being taken every day in this regard. Sea-going ships have already become 21 to 29 per cent more efficient between 2008 and 2018, according to the 2020 IMO 4th Greenhouse Gas Study. Yet, more needs to be done. At the same time, this requires substantial investments for the construction of new ships and in the existing fleet (retrofitting). Access to private and public financing and innovation schemes for both small and large shipowners are preconditions for realising sustainable seagoing vessels. This concerns new-buildings as well as retrofitting existing ships.