The European Ports Forum assembles in Brussels
The inaugural meeting of the Commission Expert Group European Ports Forum took place on 11 December, 2017, in Brussels. The role of the group, as stated by the European Commission (EC) and consisting of Member States’ authorities, EEA Member States representatives and officials from fourteen observer organizations, is to provide advice and expertise to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport. The Baltic Ports Organization is among the associations invited to the Forum.
The role of ports in the development of an efficient and sustainable trans-European network, based mainly on their beneficial impact on multimodal transport, cannot be denied. Recognizing this, the European Commission launched in 2013 the strategy “Ports: An engine of growth”, as a means of supporting the ports in their contribution to economic recovery. As a result, the Port Services Regulation, aimed at ensuring transparency of financial relations between public and port authorities, has been proposed.
Fast forward to 2017 and the creation of the European Ports Forum, which should act as an exchange platform for information, progress and best practices surrounding the process of implementation of the Port Services Regulation, adopted earlier this year.
The EC expects the Forum to act as a supporting body for the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) in issues involving port matters. There is a selection of tasks set to be addressed by the Forum in the run-up to the Port Services Regulation’s application, scheduled for March 24th, 2019. Tasks at hand include the exchange of information on policies and initiatives essential for the maritime transport sector, advisory duties surrounding initiatives aimed at promoting and support of the implementation of the Port Services Regulation as well as assisting in coordinating the dialogue between various Member States’ authorities on questions arising in relation to said process.
Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport, in his speech delivered during the meeting, mentioned that the Port Services Regulation will be the first step to establishing a “level playing field” for all stakeholders. Hololei said: „Since ports are strategic assets, which need to be protected for our collective security, the new EU framework for the screening of foreign investment will also apply to them. This will lead to increased transparency obligations and it will guarantee compliance with the European legislative framework, standards, norms and rules for foreign investors”.
He also mentioned decarbonisation and sustainability as goals that the EC would like to pursue. Hololei also spoke about the need to embrace digitalization and challenges associated with the process: “If the prospects of digitalisation are associated with many benefits, certain issues still need to be addressed: interoperability, cyber security, equal treatment of parties, transparency”.
The group is composed of Members States’ authorities, EEA Member States’ representatives and a broad range of associations and organizations representing the maritime transport sector. Their input should assure that the interests of the port and shipping sectors are taken into account at every step of the Port Services Regulation’s implementation process. The Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) is among the bodies invited to the Forum.
One of the key elements of BPO’s mission, is to contribute to economic, social and environmental sustainable development of maritime transport and the port industry in the Baltic Sea region. In doing so, the organization is able to strengthen the region’s global competitiveness. For that very reason it is important that the BPO remains a strong voice among the members of the European Ports Forum.
Apart from the BPO, the list, totaling 14 organizations, includes among others the European Sea Ports Association (ESPO), the European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP), the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH), the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MEDCRUISE) and the Community of European Railways (CER). A new call for applications for additional members might be considered in the future. The Forum is set to convene at least twice per year.