EESC warns about the need of urgent action in maritime sector

Immediate action must be taken to address the critical challenges facing maritime transport; otherwise European shipping may for ever lose its position as the world leader, warns the EESC in its opinion on the future of the maritime sector.

The opinion underlines the need to make maritime professions more attractive for youngsters. Drawing young people into shipping and retaining them are of vital importance. Alongside EU-level action to address the issue, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in cooperation with national Economic and Social Councils, can promote the EU maritime identity and heritage and communicate best practices in order to attract young people to seafarer's careers.     

The EESC points to the longstanding EU commitment to open and fair competition and reiterates the need to avoid protectionist measures as they would only delay a return to healthy economies. As for the global position of European shipping, it should be reinforced through EU state aid arrangements in order to ensure a level playing field and worldwide competitiveness of the EU fleet. In this context, the EESC backs the European Commission stance on the need for global rules for a global industry and stresses the importance of international maritime regulation.

Turning to the proliferation of piracy incidents, the EESC calls on the European Commission to promote the establishment of appropriate jurisdictions and legislation in order to stamp out this criminal activity. The Committee advocates also closer EU-UN cooperation to improve the situation in  those countries where pirates originate. Recently, Frontex, EMSA, CFCA, three european agencies, have signed an agreement of cooperation on maritime surveillance which will result in an improvement of the control of external maritime borders of the EU, an increase in maritime safety and an enhancement of the coordination of fisheries control and inspection activities by the Member States.

Lastly, in considering any possible market based instrument for maritime transport the competitiveness of the European shipping industry in the global market should not be adversely affected. The opinion reiterates its support for investment in research and development into "green" ships, fuels and ports.  It has been two years since the Commission presented an Action Plan on the Integrated Maritime Policy, which contemplates actions in a wide range of issues ranging from maritime transport, through employment, scientific research, fisheries and protecting the marine environment.