Policy priorities

Trade Facilitation for Short Sea Shipping

Short sea shipping has been on the EU agenda since the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the internal market has not been completed when it comes to shipping. In many cases goods transported by short sea shipping between two EU seaports lose Union status as soon as they leave port. Shipping is confronted with heavy administrative procedures and reporting requirements, something land based modes are not facing.

Short sea shipping transports goods and passengers in the same country or between ports without crossing an ocean, (mostly) on a regular or scheduled basis. It is a source of economic growth in itself, providing jobs and revenue to thousands of people, from the shipyard building and equipping vessels, to the seafarer on board, the catering company that serves food on the ferry vessels, down to the little café where the driver waits before rolling the truck on board.

Cargo and passenger flows will keep growing and will not be easily absorbed by the other modes of transport without a disproportionally negative impact on its infrastructures, way of life and environment. Short sea shipping can, if only its full potential were to be unleashed, safely, efficiently and cost-effectively cope with these demands and ensure that flows in goods and people are smoothly handled.

In Europe, shipping accounts for 37% of intra-EU trade. Road transport counts for 45%, while rail comes much lower, with just above 10%. Inland waterways and transportation by pipeline each account for a little less than 5% and air transport is the least solicited means of intra-EU freight transportation. Short sea shipping remains disadvantaged compared to other transport modes. Shipping companies face a pile of administrative to be fulfilled, both for customs and other purposes, such as veterinary, police and nautical.

Short sea shipping has the full ability to be ‘just like trucks’, which should become its main selling point. Many administrative formalities concerning both cargo and crew related to the arrival of the ship are outdated, unnecessary and repetitive. They should be streamlined and rationalised to alleviate the administrative burden.

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