European transport commissioner Violeta Bulc has big plans for strengthening the competiveness of the EU shipping industry - which employs over 220,00 seafarers - explaining that she and her team are "particularly active on four fronts: administrative simplification, improving the environmental performance of the sector, giving financial support to infrastructure and innovative logistics services, and promoting the seafarer profession".
The Slovenian commissioner says, "today, vessels sailing between EU ports encounter a significant number of complex procedures. On 1 June 2015, a directive on so-called reporting formalities will come into force. This directive will simplify and harmonise the administrative procedures imposed on ship masters and shipping companies, by abolishing paper submissions and introducing the principle of 'reporting only once' through the establishment of national single windows".
"While shipping is widely recognised as the cleanest mode of transport for large quantities of cargo, the vast amount of operations it conducts still adds up to substantial emissions and waste discharges"
Bulc adds that the commission is also "working to reduce custom formalities for those ships which have mixed EU and non-EU cargo on board. Our aim is to make maritime transport as simple as road transport when it comes to delivering EU goods within the internal market".
Policymakers have been focusing considerable efforts on introducing environmentally friendly measures, yet the former entrepreneur warns that, "while shipping is widely recognised as the cleanest mode of transport for large quantities of cargo, the vast amount of operations it conducts still adds up to substantial emissions and waste discharges".
It is for this reason that the commission has "established a 'European sustainable shipping forum' that brings together member states and all maritime industry sectors. One of the areas of focus is how to promote the use of liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel for shipping".
Of course, improving the shipping sector is not exclusively linked to what happens out at sea. Bulc underlines that, "linking ports with their hinterland via modern and efficient infrastructure is a key factor for the competitiveness of maritime transport".
She highlights that, "our goal is to establish nine transport corridors - each of them spanning over several thousand kilometres and ending with major ports - that act as the backbone of the EU transport network". This project is set to receive €26.2bn of EU funding up to 2020.