Today many crew and cargo-related administrative formalities following a ship’s arrival at port remain outdated, redundant and repetitive. Moreover, they disproportionately burden ships engaged especially in Short Sea Shipping (SSS) operations, due to their frequent port calls.

Since the adoption of the Single Market Act II in 2012, the simplification, streamlining and digitalization of SSS operations has been one of the EU’s policy priorities. However, EU initiatives taken in that direction have so far not delivered the anticipated and much-needed results. The simplification expected from the 2010/65 EU Reporting Formalities Directive did not materialize, while the Customs Good Manifest – introduced via the Union Customs Code – will only be implemented after 2020 and does not address all the required simplifications.

The current EU Reporting Formalities Directive should urgently be revised to truly and effectively harmonise end-user interfaces, reporting procedures and data requirements, thus fulfilling its stated objective of cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary administrative burden on ships and crews.

In this context, the European Commission should also consider and adopt measures, such as the e-Manifest, which would simplify procedures, particularly for SSS services with countries outside the EU, as well as ensure market access to port services and guarantee the free movement of goods.

The outstanding issue of the simplification of port or customs formalities should also be considered in the framework of the implementation of the EU Ports’ Regulation 2017/352, where critical issues pertaining to vessels providing non-scheduled SSS services (i.e. frequent but not regular) have also been identified.

The European Commission’s maritime transport policy should accelerate the process and urgently provide the policy measures needed to unleash the untapped potential of Short Sea Shipping.