Shipping Policy

Short Sea Shipping (SSS) has been on the EU’s agenda for a long time. Despite a series of policies, a number of long-standing problems have not been resolved and its full potential has not been unleashed yet. More specifically, SSS is still facing many legislative and administrative impediments that weigh it down, affect its effectiveness and restrict its role in today’s EU transport system. It is unjustifiably disadvantaged in comparison to the road or rail sector, which operate under minimal administrative burden and infrastructure cost.

SSS can only reach its peak if the Single Market for Shipping is completed, if procedures for regular short sea shipping services with third countries are simplified and if market access to port services, along with the free movement of goods, is guaranteed. Unfortunately, the recent adoption of the EU Port Regulation has not delivered the expected results regarding the liberalization of port services or the transparency and justification of their cost.

The UGS believes that the simplification of administrative formalities as well as the adoption of a comprehensive electronic cargo document, the so called “e-manifest” would bring substantial benefits to SSS, ensuring an EU-wide “reporting once” principle. Additionally, the use of digital technologies would result in optimization of cargo flows and better use of existing port infrastructure.

The simplification of administrative formalities, the so called “e-manifest” and the internalisation of external and infrastructure costs of the land-based modes of transport would bring substantial benefits to SSS and the EU.

Most importantly, the UGS is of the view that SSS can thrive only if all other competitive transport modes internalize the external costs imposed on society. Such costs include emissions, noise, highway transport load, damages, accidents and maintenance of infrastructure. The above requirements, which demand regulatory initiatives both at a national and at an EU level, must be fulfilled, so that SSS can become the most preferred transport mode for short distances.

Hence, further work is needed. Both the European Commission and the member states, the shipowners, shippers and other stakeholders should devise ways to improve the performance of SSS within a commercially meaningful framework.