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Dynamiques des ports méditerranéens

European Union, a whole new world of challenges to Mediterranean ports

Maria Helena Martins et Ana Filipa Prata
p. 121-137


Ce texte présente brièvement l’importance des ports européens et méditerranéens ainsi qu’une approche du développement des politiques portuaires européennes. À partir de cette approche, les auteurs analysent une série de mesures législatives et de directives européennes, pour essayer de comprendre comment le cadre européen influe sur les stratégies maritimes portugaises, et, simultanément, quels sont les efforts produits pour mettre en place une politique maritime dans la zone méditerranéenne.

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Introduction and importance of Ports

1Seaports cannot be analyzed as infrastructures that merely handle ships. A modern port interconnects and offers a choice between various modes of transport. Goods can be transferred from sea to rail, road or inland navigation. They constitute a vital interconnection in the world logistics, including several trade activities. This interconnection allows citizens to buy cheap products from all over world. Consequently, the definition of policies related to ports has to tackle all economic and sustainable development aspects of oceans and seas, namely market, security, safety, innovation, environment and employment, in order to evaluate the spill over effect that some sectors may have on other sectors. Because of these side effects, it is also necessary to study ports dynamics to analyze a number of related policies.

2The European Union has for the 21st century a major goal –sustainable development– and maritime transport can be one of the means to achieve this goal, by replacing road transport and consequently, addressing the need to reduce emissions. Maritime transport is 13 times less pollutant in terms of carbon and 19 times less in terms of hydrocarbons. But maritime traffic increases the need for port facilities: for this reason European ports face many and varied challenges. Concurrently, industrial efficiency will be promoted, environmental impact will be reduced and smoothly, and ports will be integrated in the transport chain.

3Europe is intimately linked to oceans and seas surrounding its coasts. Europe has more than 1 000 ports and about 100 000 km of European coasts. More than two thirds of the frontiers of the European Union are maritime frontiers. Geography, since ancient times, created the perception that oceans could have an important role in the development of European cultural identity and history. With the increase of trade, ports were transformed from a safe place to handle ships to a place generating prosperity.

4Ports in Europe are very different; this diversity can be related with their geographical characteristics and size, or the kind of traffic they handle. They can be estuary ports, city ports and island ports, mega-size ports and small local ports, container ports, industrial ports, cruise and ferry ports, as well as fishing ports, but all of them produce added value. Ports can ensure dynamism and development of whole regions, including most peripheral ones, in line with the Lisbon strategy.

5Regarding Europe maritime dimension, its present economic potential can reach between 3 and 5% of its Gross Domestic Product coming from industries related with the maritime sector. Therefore, maritime transport has a vital interest for the European economic development and ports are essential for international trade, handling 90% of the European external trade and 40% of its intracommunity trade. European Union, having more than 40% of the world fleet should promote the leadership on international maritime affairs.

6Maritime transport is a very safe mode of transport, so it is appropriate for transporting dangerous products, such as chemicals. In particular, river transport is ideal for the carriage of heavy low-cost commodities over long distances. Every year, 3.5 billions tons of goods and 400 millions passengers embark and disembark in European ports. Ports are direct and indirect sources of more than half a million jobs, generating an added value of about 200 million Euros. If we consider the total European maritime cluster, it provides employment for more than 2.5 million people. Consequently, Europe needs a network of efficient ports.

7Until the economic downturn, world trade and maritime transport in general and Short Sea Shipping in particular increased constantly. Southern Europe registered the biggest increase, maybe because of the lead of Mediterranean ports in the East-West way. This growth was not homogeneous for all the goods, and it was bigger for manufactured products in containers, than those of oil products.

8Maintaining the European maritime leadership requires to pay attention to associated services, like insurances, bank intermediation, and consultancy. Tourism in maritime areas is also a source of income, expected to reach more than 72 billion Euros. Environmental quality is necessary to maintain sustainability and to allow tourists to go on benefiting from the sea and beaches.

9The policy of maritime surveillance has an important role to play in the protection of seas, either related with environment, or with the protection of people and goods. Having in mind the environmental catastrophes caused by accidents, and specially those from Erika and Prestige in 1999 and 2002, the EU has been adopting several measures to reduce risks, and created the Maritime Agency for Maritime Security (Reg. (CE) nº 1406/2002). Ports also heavily invest in security measures to prevent terrorism, illegal immigration, and other criminal activities. It is their responsibility to protect passengers, staff, cargo, ships and port installations and to offer a safe and secure working climate for all activities in their facilities. The European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) gathers port managers from over 800 different ports in 23 European countries and is the main interface between European seaports and the institutions of the European Union.

10Having in mind the above description, maritime activities cannot be considered as compartmentalized, where ships handle goods from port to port, but as environmental-friendly alternatives to congested roads, and intermodal door-to-door transport solutions.

Building on a european policy

11Since the creation of the European Economic Community, transportation has been one of its preoccupations. A reference to transports can be found in the Treaty of Rome (Title V). But for a long time, the European Community was unable, or unwilling, to implement the common transport policy provided for by the Treaty of Rome. European policies on maritime transport, fisheries, energy, surveillance and security, tourism, marine environment, and marine research were developed on separate tracks, leading at times to inefficiencies, incoherencies and conflicts of use.

12The internal market gave a new impetus to the idea of a European policy to the sector, which should foster free competition rules and fight against maritime pollution, security in navigation and maritime surveillance in general. The Commission’s first White Paper on the future development of a common transport policy was published in December 1992. The main idea of the document was the opening-up of the transport market.

13During ten years, transport has been opened up to competition in different modes of transport, and the first real effect in common transport policy led to a significant fall in consumer prices, together with a higher quality of service and more possibilities of choice. As a consequence, personal mobility also increased and lifestyles and consumption habits of European citizens changed.

14However, distortions of competition resulting from the lack of fiscal and social harmonization did not disappear. Some transport modes got better adapted than others to the needs of a modern economy, and the road transport, particularly for passengers, was still predominant. More than half of the structural expenditure on transport infrastructure, including those from the cohesion fund and loans from the European Investment Bank, favored road transport.

15In 1995, a judgment from the European Court of Justice considered that Europe should have a coherent Transports Policy and underlined the lack of willingness to establish conditions for international transport services in order to allow transport services in the EU from third countries.

16The Maastricht Treaty (1992), or European Union Treaty, includes references for the establishment of Trans European Networks (TEN-T), as a way of achieving competitiveness. In particular, articles 129º B and C (Title XII – Trans European Networks) states respectively that “Action by the Community shall aim at promoting the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks” and “It shall take account in particular the need to link island, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the Community.”

17The Decision 1692/96/CE from the European Parliament and the Council defined the goals, priorities and guidelines to develop the TEN-T, and include several modes of transport to promote the infrastructures profitability, to foster the promotion of interconnection and interoperability at intra community, intra European and Mediterranean level. This decision should contribute to the development of maritime transport and maritime ports.

18However, maritime transport, in spite of accounting 40% of goods transportation in the EU, is the most neglected of all transport modes. In spite of its energetic and safety efficiency and the fact that a barge carries the content of 110 trucks, it was paradoxically enough never considered as a real competitive alternative to land transport. It appears that the biggest missing link was the lack of a close connection between sea, inland waterways and rail.

19According to the conclusions of the Gothenburg European Council of June 2001, and having in mind the need for optimizing the transport system to meet the demand from the EEC, enlargement and sustainable development, the Commission approved, in September 2001, the White paper “European Transport Policy for 2010: time to decide.”

20The new imperative –sustainable development– offered an opportunity for adopting the Common Transport Policy. According to the Treaty of Amsterdam, environmental considerations should be integrated into Community policies. The White paper underlined that, unless major new measures were taken by 2010 in the European Union so that Member States could use the advantages of each mode of transport more rationally, heavy products vehicle traffic alone would increase by nearly 50% over its 1998 level.

  • 1  Standardizing containers should be easily transferable from rail to road (and vice versa). They ar (...)

21To support intermodal initiatives and alternatives to road transport in the early stages until they become commercially viable, a program was launched (Marco Polo) to promote intermodality. This program, adopted in July 2003, funded by an annual budget of around 30 million Euros, is open to all proposals that would shift freight from road to other more environmentally friendly modes. The Commission proposed a work program that included namely the concept of “motorways of the sea” in the future revision of the trans-European networks. Technical measures, particularly on containers,1 loading units and activities of freight integrator were also considered. Another key element was the battle against illegal immigration that increased with the abolition of controls at the internal borders. The need for creating a European Maritime Safety Agency was recognized, to tighten the maritime safety rules in cooperation with the International Bodies and to reinforce port State controls.

22The revision in 2004 of the guidelines for European Transport Network (TEN-T) included the development of “motorways of the sea” considered among thirty priority projects, to bring significant improvements in the quality and efficiency of transport in Europe by 2010, and to achieve a rebalancing between the different modes of transport. Later, in March 2005, the Commission put forward a Communication on an integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) for the EU, setting out the main objectives for the adoption of a “Green Paper” on the future of EU Maritime Policy.

The Green Paper (2006)

23The “Green Paper” was adopted in June 2006, launching the debate on a future Maritime Policy for the EU, which would interconnect different maritime sectors, providing cross-cutting coordination and allowing a comprehensive outlook on oceans governance at the European level. The consultation process lasted one year, between June 7th, 2006 and June 30th, 2007. It was one of the biggest ever launched by the Commission. It triggered a massive response from stakeholders. Coastal zones, through their representatives, either regional or national, took an active role in this consultation, bringing a new awareness and showing that this subject mattered for EU citizens, especially those living in coastal areas (about 40%). For the first time, non-commercial subjects, such as quality of life in coastal regions, were also considered.

24Questions and guidelines to reverse specific problems in order to maintain European competitiveness were addressed in the Green Paper. A number of significant themes were underlined:

  • The EU plays a leading role in maritime activities and looks to the future, in order to keep European competitiveness in a globalized world. Maritime transport and ports, represent the key components of the logistics chain and ought to be efficient and moving towards sustainable development;

  • Maritime Safety plays a significant role in the protection of marine environment, specially after the accidents of Erika and Prestige;

  • Climate change has an impact in Europe: oceans and seas are very sensitive to climate variations. Oceans are direct or indirect climate regulators, but they can also be affected by human activities in coastal areas. Europe needs to go on considering appropriate measures to reduce climate change including in the maritime sector;

  • Maritime activities need well-trained and competent seafarers crews. But it is difficult to attract skilled employees because of the career constraints, such as isolation, low status attached to the job and low remuneration. Professionals from third countries now take up many of the jobs. Training curricula should be reviewed in order to ensure that EU recruits are trained according to international standards;

  • The interdependence of maritime activities and policies justify the need for a comprehensive system of spatial planning. Such system would prevent unintended and contradictory effects of legislation, developed according the needs and objectives of a policy, on other maritime goals in the context of sustainable development;

  • The development of sea transport and ports in European coastal zones led to an increasing demand for maritime leisure services. A new industry in coastal areas is growing to meet this demand. The environmental impact of such development shall be considered into planning to avoid unsustainable results;

  • Sea-related risks and threats include criminal activities such as the traffic of human beings and terrorism. A preventive approach and original planning is required to fight against these risks and threats;

  • The compromise between the development of maritime transport and environmental conservation is a major issue. Background constraints imposed by EU regulations are related with nature preservation, but at the same time face the need to extend ports for further development of intermodal transport services.

25The variety of uses of oceans and seas will require better data and information on maritime activities as well as on their impact on the basis of their resource. There is still a problem of data harmonization and need for unfailing data and a geographically more balanced monitoring in all the European marine regions. All these gaps must be addressed to build a sound and sustainable Maritime Policy. The setting up of a European Marine Observation and Data Network would provide systematic observation, interoperability and increased access to data, for implementing forecasting and monitoring services. Better data and real time information on the movements of ships is necessary, not only for the navigation, but also to fight against illegal behaviors such as smuggling, trafficking, terrorism and illegal discharges from ships.

26All these Maritime Policy goals shall be supported through European financial instruments. The ocean governance has to take into account community rules, distribution of competences among European institutions, Member States, regions and local authorities. The maritime activity, which is particularly related with trans-boundary activities, is better regulated on the basis of international rules. If the EU develops new ideas in Maritime Policy, they shall be shared with the international community. When there is a need to new international regulations, the EU shall contribute to their introduction.

27European shipyards that respect discipline on public support have been confronted with unfair competition from a number of countries that did not abide by the rules from the World Trade Organization (WTO) or Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The current WTO negotiations on services, under the Doha Development Round (DDA), will allow European operators to benefit from a non-discriminatory market access.

28After the consultation period of the Green Paper, the European Council of June 2007 acknowledged the debate that took place, and asked the Commission to develop an Action Plan to be launched in October.

Integrated Maritime Policy - Action Plan

29To answer to the demand of the European Council of June 2007, the Commission presented on October 10 a Communication entitled “An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union.” During the Portuguese Presidency of the Council, in the second half of 2007, efforts were developed to present conclusions to the European Council of December. In this Communication, the Commission intends to define the way to solve the questions raised by the Green Paper. The proposed Action Plan aims at achieving the key objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy, maximizing the sustainable use of oceans and seas, and offering the highest quality of life in the coastal regions.

30The development of sector policies should be coordinated to create the necessary links between them and make sure that interactions between these policies will be taken into account. The first measures proposed under this Action Plan were based on spatial planning, integrated approach to data collection, and innovative basis for Maritime Policy.

31In order to maximize the sustainable use of oceans and seas, the Commission tackles several aspects:

  • The reduction of the effects of climate change through a global strategy for maritime investigation, improving knowledge. This investigation will be supported by the EU’s 7th Framework Research Program;

  • Europe should not only focus on maintaining the competitiveness of the existing sea related industries, but should also promote their development on the long term and, in line with the Lisbon Strategy, create more and better jobs. The competitiveness of the maritime sector, as already underlined, will also depend on the capacity to attract a qualified workforce;

  • Ports and cities need to adapt, and extend their capacities. At the same time, this will be both, a challenge but also an opportunity;

  • The need to reduce ship emissions is a global issue and should best be addressed at global level;

  • Efforts are to be made to preserve and restore fish stocks, and to improve policies for those who are active in this sector.

32Another key objective of the IMP will be based on a sound knowledge of the oceans and seas and search the best way for their management. For this purpose, intensive scientific research is needed to ensure the preservation of its ecosystems.

33Improvements for a higher quality of life in coastal regions depend on a balance between economic development and environmental sustainability. For Europeans living in coastal zones, the challenge lies in the growth of coastal tourism, the demand of seafood and the coastal environment. The achievement of equilibrium asks for a combination of central policies with decentralized decision making.

34The tools set out in the Integrated Maritime Policy include on the one hand the development of a more integrated network of maritime surveillance systems. On the other hand, the development of a maritime spatial planning assisted by a EU Marine Observation and Data Network is necessary to bring coherence to all the initiatives and to keep Europe as a world leader.

35This strategy proposes concrete measures and mechanisms to improve the efficiency of the marine research and to address the challenges of climate change. In this Communication, the Commission also wanted to ensure a viable and sustainable future for European fishermen, by securing a substantial part of the resources and defining ways for the resolution of the questions linked to the Green Paper. This Communication also foresees an adequate follow-up to achieve the goals of the Integrated Maritime Policy. In 2008, different options were examined, and in 2009 the Commission set up a system for exchange of best practices among authorities.

36Immediately after the launching of the Action Plan during the Ministerial Conference on Maritime policy for the European, held in Lisbon the October 22nd, 2007, the European Commissioner for Seas, Joe Borg, stated that the important role played by the oceans and the seas was being more widely acknowledged. He stressed that the intense economic and leisure uses of the oceans can bring more marine pollution. Some forecasts state that nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions from shipping can surpass by 2020 those of land-based industries.

Communication on a European Ports Policy (October 2007)

37This Communication on ports follows and implements the Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy. The EU ought to have a port system able to face future challenges inits transport needs. New investments have to beattracted to fully contribute to co-modal development.The increase of the cruise industry and the demand for goods transportation –especially the traffic of bulk products, which represents half of the need of transport–, should prompt a greater use of the maritime mode, a better diversification of delivery points, and a decrease of congested land transport.

38As maritime activities are concentrated in a few ports –Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg accounting for 30% of the movements in Europe in 2005–, intra-EU connections, by either short sea shipping or feedering services, are a sustainable option for many ports. This option explores alternative transport routes as a means to achieve a more intensive use of all existing ports –some of which are operating under capacity levels– and to have them nearer to users.

39Ports are facing several main challenges, such as a growing demand for international transport and major technological changes. At the same time, the duty to reduce greenhouse gases and the existing problems with air quality calls for modal diversification towards rail, inland navigation and maritime transport. A frequent dialogue on port operations and improvements is necessary between port stakeholders and the city or the region. There is sometimes a conflict between both interests and ports can be moved away from the city centre, for environmental and security reasons. Ports should bring together development and management with transparency, competition and other Community rules.

40Although some ports can be considered efficient in economic terms, others still have bottlenecks, namely inefficient routings and access from sea or land, long waiting time, unsatisfactory security for trucks, trains and barges, lack of labor conditions and unnecessary administrative requirements that all together increase the costs. To reverse this situation, it is necessary to enhance ports efficiency and productivity, either through improvement of the access routes, either in performance. In the case of Short Sea Shipping, the simplification of procedures will reduce delays, costs, and will also improve confidence in short sea shipping, creating new opportunities for ports and encouraging the setting up of Motorways of the Sea.

Strategic goals and recommendations for the EU’s Maritime Transport Policy until 2018

41As already underlined, shipping and related maritime industries are important contributors to the European GDP. Consequently, there is a big concern with the impact of the financial crisis that is affecting the shipping sector since the end of 2008. An appropriate policy is necessary to assist the recovery of the economy and maintain the performance of the EU maritime transport system. This policy should also ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the maritime sector in the near future.

42The European Council of December 2008 recognized the progress made by the Commission in implementing the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, namely on issues such as governance, surveillance, and research. Progress on maritime Spatial Planning and offshore renewable energy, together with the development of different strategies for maritime basins, was also appreciated. The Council acknowledged the implementation of this policy by Member States. Member States were also asked to move forward with best practices on maritime governance and surveillance.

43The Commission presented, in early 2009, a Communication on the main strategic objectives for the European maritime transport system up to 2018, identifying key areas where action by the EU could reinforce competitiveness and increase the execution of environmental goals. This Communication also underlines the challenges, for the next years, for operators involved in the provision of maritime transport services, and for the European maritime transport in general. They will have to face the negative impact of external factors such as financial crisis, risk of overcapacities in certain market segments, increase of protectionist measures affecting world trade, environmental concerns related to climate changes, unpredictability in energy and other commodity markets, and loss of European maritime know-how because of the shortage of skilled human resources.

44In addition, the position of European operators is hampered by unfair competition, due to the lack of implementation outside Europe of international rules on safety, security and social and environmental standards. This situation can lead to a real risk of delocalization of head offices and maritime industries outside Europe. Effective governance of maritime affairs and international fair-play in maritime transport is necessary to avoid such consequences. The Communication underlined important conclusions:

  • After the recovery of the world economy, a growth in international trade will begin and will entail a maritime transport system able to carry advanced logistics solutions;

  • The next ten years may offer a unique opportunity to reinforce the competitiveness of European shipping, and its contribution to the objectives of a sustainable European transport policy.

45Moreover, this Communication identifiessome Strategic recommendations:

  • Competitive European shipping: it is necessary to attain and keep an attractive framework for quality shipping and quality operators in Europe, including financial measures;

  • Human Factor: Maritime professions ought to be more attractive to young people and positive measures should be adopted to improve the image of shipping, to facilitate life-long career prospects in the maritime clusters; to support the work of international organizations –International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO)– for a fair treatment of seafarers;

  • Greener Maritime Transport: Significant efforts have been made to tackle issues such as maritime prevention of accidents, reduction of atmospheric emissions and ship recycling. However the Commission, the Member States and the industry must develop new efforts to achieve “zero waste and zero emissions.” The measures announced in the Greening Transport Package should be fully implemented;

  • A safe and secure system: Priority should be given to the enforcement of existing Community and international rules and the fast implementation of the measures contained in the 3rd Maritime Safety Package. Regarding security, as the terrorist threat doesn’t decrease and piracy, armed robberies at the sea persist, Europe has to assume a firm response in the years to come. To promote safer shipping in some areas of the world, work should be done to support stabilization of those countries from where the piracy comes;

  • International Scene: The global challenges faced by the shipping and maritime industries need credible answers from the international community. To face the challenges of the 21st century, the Commission and the Member States may become a real motivating force for the adoption of an adequate comprehensive international regulatory framework for shipping;

  • Short Sea Shipping and Ports: The deepening of economic integration with the EEA Member States and with the Neighborhood Policy countries will have an encouraging impact on maritime transport connections within the EU. Positive measures to support short sea shipping should also help intensify sea-exchanges in all the European maritime coasts. These measures will include the creation of a European Maritime Transport Space without barriers. They will attract investment for the modernization and expansion of ports and infrastructures projects that connect ports and hinterland;

  • Innovation and technological development: Efforts in research and innovation will have a positive effect on the competitiveness of European maritime industries and their capacity to meet environmental, energy, safety and human challenges. A framework of reference should be introduced for the implementation of “e-Maritime” services at European and global levels.

Motorways of the Sea

46The Commission White paper entitled “European Transport Policy for 2010: time to decide,” underlined the importance of developing maritime transport and favor interconnection. It launched the concept of Motorways of the Sea. It answers a need for new ideas in transport logistics planning, involving not only ports and shipping operators, but the entire chain that brings goods from the factory to the final consumer. Ship services need to operate regularly to develop this concept, in order to create an alternative to road transport.

47Three lines of orientation were defined. First, the necessity to assure the sea connection; secondly the need for favorable technical conditions, such as quality of port services, quality of hinterland connections, information systems and monitoring in transport logistics, and special characteristics of ship services (frequency and regularity, safety and security); and finally, the Program Marco Polo was established to support interconnecting operations.

48In this context, the first guidance reinforces the development of maritime transport and river transport as an alternative to road and asks for interconnections. Motorways of the Sea is in the short run, the only choice, bearing in mind that railways needs more investment in infrastructures to be competitive. Motorways of the Sea only need ports infrastructures and connections between land base networks and ships. At the same time, sea transport is enegetically more efficient and more environmental friendly. This option is a cleaner, more cost-effective solution for transporting freight and will reduce congestion of the main bottlenecks on European roads. Motorways of the Sea can also help social cohesion, by connecting peripheral regions and islands with the continental shelve, thus developing the economy of these regions and consequently, trade and job creations.

49The Commission also created funds to implement such a policy, namely Marco Polo and TEN-T Motorways of the Sea program. Nevertheless, it has to face several important obstacles. First, there are legal administrative and customs obstacles, such as diversity of procedures and judicial systems. Moreover, different systems create some legal uncertainties regarding the applicable law to multimodal transport operations. These problems have to be properly addressed, otherwise the multimodal transport will remain a dream far from reality.

Implementing the Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean

50The strategy of extension of the Integrated Maritime Policy to the Mediterranean Southern Partners is developed under existing policies for Mediterranean cooperation, such as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UpM). The Commission initiated a dialogue with Mediterranean and Black Sea countries and will try to include maritime policy issues in the European Neighborhood Policy.

51The Union for Mediterranean Policy (UpM) gives special attention to the launching of ambitious projects which are necessary to develop the economies of Partner countries from the south of the Mediterranean.

52One of the projects approved at the Paris Summit that launched the UpM is Motorways of the Sea. With this project, Southern countries will be associated to the European project in meeting the challenges facing oceans and seas. In particular, a list of interested ports will be established and the potential flows will be identified in order to define the governance and the division of tasks. Finally, a business plan will be also considered and the raising of funds to implement the project.

Portuguese ports. A strategic future?

53The unique characteristics, location and facilities of the Mediterranean area clearly set Southern European countries apart from the rest of the European continent. In a somewhat peculiar way, the long Portuguese maritime tradition, its geographic characteristics, its long coastline, its Atlantic localization and the geographic dispersion of Portuguese domestic territory (continental Portugal, Madeira and Azores archipelagoes, and the former colonies), determined, many centuries ago, the country’s interconnection and interdependence with the maritime element and with the exterior.

54Long before 1986, when Portugal became an official member state of the European Community, the Portuguese relationship with the sea, with Mediterranean countries and with seaport life had already an ancient past. Becoming a EU member state, though, had its benefits and its challenges. From 1986 on, many novelties appeared, regarding, for instance, economic, commercial and maritime activities that Portugal had to become familiar with.

55In an ever-changing world and in a constant growing world economy, Portugal is constantly looking for benefits from its unique localization. Portuguese participation in the restructuring scheme of inter-countries’ relations and commercial connections, allows Portuguese seaports to fully develop their potential, and enables the country to act as a logistic platform between the Mediterranean and North European nations.

Strategic guidelines to the Portuguese maritime sector (2006)

  • 2  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transport (...)

56By December 2006, the Portuguese government released an official document presenting the country’s strategic guidelines for the development of the Portuguese maritime sector.2The main purpose of that document was to promote Portuguese ports and Portuguese maritime potentialities by simplifying all bureaucratic and administrative procedures, and thus enabling Portuguese seaports competitiveness. Intending to reinforce port security, maritime safety and environmental protection, a set of procedures were also included in that document. Today, however, interactions with the sea are more intense, more varied, and create more value than ever before. Portugal is now developing two key projects, both intending to facilitate maritime traffic and port commercial activities in all Portuguese seaports.

  • 3  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transport (...)

57One of these projects is called PIP’e Project (Electronic Procedures and Electronic Portuary Information).3 The PIP’e project aims to normalize, simplify and harmonize the procedures of Portuguese ports in a way that assures the flow of maritime traffic both with Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean nations. It intends to harmonize procedures among several ports, especially for inter-connection, as well as the electronic exchange of data among the several members of the maritime port community, in order to implement the concept of Single Window.

58The investment needed to accomplish this project, is being undertaken by the Portuguese Ministry of Transports and by the Association of the Portuguese Ports (APP). It has also gained financial support from the European Community budget through the TransEuropean Networks budget, with a 50 per cent monetary contribution. The global cost of the project is estimated to be around 3 million Euros.

59PIP’e project is divided into two phases. The first one consists in the understanding of the present situation of all the Portuguese ports, both in mainland and islands. It also includes the re-drafting of processes; the elaboration of proposals to change the Portuguese Seaport and Maritime Policy and legislation, if needed; the definition of a National Reference Framework; and the drafting of inter-communication schemes between all ports. The National Reference Framework is a set of functional and technical documents enabling the development of new port procedures and software applications, with the intent of generating a simplified and harmonized functioning of the Portuguese ports, under the principle of a Unique Port System. The second phase of the project aims to develop and upgrade software applications of port management in all Portuguese ports.

  • 4  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transport (...)

60Another project developed by Portuguese stakeholders is called PORTMOS –Integration of the Portuguese Port and Maritime System in the Motorways of the Sea.4 The PORTMOS project is to be part of the Portuguese Port and Maritime System in the Motorways of the Sea Network, as set by the European Commission. It will thus develop a continuity notion, in which maritime and terrestrial components are interconnected. Commodities shall flow as if traveling on a highway: without any obstructions that force a halt in motion or additional costs; with simplified duties and documents to the very indispensable;with only one player who is accountable for the transport process; and with high levels of reliability.

61The investment needed to accomplish this project is also being undertaken by the Portuguese Ministry of Transports and by the APP, and has gained financial support from the European Community budget through the TransEuropean Networks budget, with a 50 per cent monetary contribution. The global cost of the project is estimated to be around 2.5 million Euros.

62The PORTMOS project is divided into three phases. The first phase, which aimed to set the concept/model and the infrastructural requirements of the Motorways of the Sea, was concluded in February 2006, with the release of a final report evaluating the impacts of Portuguese Ports’ integration in the Motorways of the Sea. The main objective of the so-called Motorways of the Sea Network, to be fully implemented by 2020, is to concentrate flows of freight on few sea routes in order to establish new viable, regular and frequent maritime links for the transport of goods between member states, and thus reducing road congestion and improving access to peripheral and island countries.

  • 5  The “Motorway of the Baltic Sea”, linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in centr (...)

63The second phase, conception and development of the info-structure support of the Motorways of the Sea network, which contract was a result of an international public bid, aims to develop the info-structural support of the Motorways of the Sea network. Along with the phase two, a third phase is also being developed, intending to set a series of pilot actions in order to implement the new info and infra-structures, previously developed, in a number of pre-determined ports. To accomplish this goal, a partnership between several international ports and entities, from the regions with the Motorways of the Sea already in activity,5 shall be engendered.

  • 6  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transport (...)

64In addition to these two projects, Portugal has also participated in the first edition of Marco Polo Program (2003-2006),6 a program that succeeded the previous PACT program (Pilot Actions for Combined Transport), which intended to support intermodality. Thanks to success of the first edition, a second edition of the Marco Polo Program is already in place (2007-2013). The goal of Marco Polo II is to shift 12 billion ton-kilometers a year from road to non-road modes.

65It is easy to understand that Portugal’s economic and commercial development is inextricably linked with the sea, and with maritime activities. An integrated maritime policy and a continuous port development should seek to raise the visibility of Portuguese ports and of Portugal’s strategic localization, and to improve the image of Portuguese maritime activities. Being as it may, maritime affairs will continue to be a regular topic in the discussions between all Mediterranean countries and European member states.


66After analyzing the main documents related with maritime transport that can have an impact on ports, it is evident that in spite of a longstanding concern with the sector, it is only after the launching of the Green Paper that policies moved towards genuine integrated maritime governance of the Seas. Efforts in different chapters of the Integrated Maritime Policy feed directly this policy and also create cross cutting, cost-efficient tools underpinning its goals. There are already some tangible results in different areas:

  • The Agenda for a Sustainable and Competitive Tourism (COM (2007) 621 final) focused on the need for a holistic approach to tourism in maritime areas. It was launched in October 2007, and led to the resolution of the European Parliament in November 2007, dedicated to the Renewed Tourism Policy;

  • The proposal from the Commission, of February 2008, for a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), to enhance Europe’s security and to prevent unauthorized border crossings;

67The set up of the Maritime Day on May 20th, 2008, focused on stakeholder activity and to celebrate European maritime dimension;

68The launching in June 2008, by the Commission, of Guidelines to Member States on an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy towards best practices in integrated maritime governance and stakeholders consultation;

  • The establishment in September 2008, of the Marine and Maritime research Strategy aiming a better integration of both sectors. The Council and Parliament adopted a Maritime Safety Package and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive;

  • A Roadmap on Maritime Spatial Planning: “Achieving common principles in the EU,” was adopted in November 2008. It aims at promoting rational use of the sea and improving decision-making;

  • A Common European Space without Borders for shipping has been launched. And in addition, the Commission also set up strategies on the future of maritime transport until 2018, on ship recycling, on European seaports, on offshore wind energy, and on marine and maritime research;

  • A Communication on European Space for maritime Transport without barriers was adopted in January 2009.

69Other areas like a Communication on offshore wind energy will be approved. It is necessary to invest more in the development of new technologies for offshore explorations, not only for offshore renewable energy, but for possibly sustainable exploitation of the seabed. On shipbuilding, the present focus could extend beyond research, with the aim of broadening public aid guidelines to allow support for building ships that use higher environmental standards. The adoption, on March 11th2008, of the measures proposed in the third Maritime Safety Package is an important step to the improvement of the existing measures to prevent accidents and on management of their consequences in case of accident.

70 “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions,Strategic goals and recommendations for the EU’s Maritime Transport Policy until 2018”, COM (2009) 8 Final, Brussels, 21.01.2009.

71“Communication from the Commission- Roadmap for maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU”, COM (2008) 791 final, Brussels, 25.11.2008.

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1  Standardizing containers should be easily transferable from rail to road (and vice versa). They are wider than normal containers and allow easy palletisation.

2  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transportes e Comunicações, December 2006. See also : ?idcat =1074.

3  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transportes e Comunicações, December 2006. See also : ?idcat =1074.

4  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transportes e Comunicações, December 2006. See also : ?idcat =1074.

5  The “Motorway of the Baltic Sea”, linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in central and Western Europe ; the “Motorway of the Sea of Western Europe”, leading from Portugal and Spain via the Atlantic Arc to the North Sea and the Irish Sea ; the “Motorway of the Sea of South-West Europe”, connecting Spain, France and Italy and including Malta, and linking with the motorway of the sea of southeast Europe ; the “Motorway of the Sea of South-East Europe”, connecting the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean to include Cyprus.

6  Orientações Estratégicas para o sector marítimo-portuário,Ministério das Obras Públicas, Transportes e Comunicações, December 2006. See also : ?idcat =1074.

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Maria Helena Martins et Ana Filipa Prata, « European Union, a whole new world of challenges to Mediterranean ports », Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 80 | 2010, 121-137.

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Maria Helena Martins et Ana Filipa Prata, « European Union, a whole new world of challenges to Mediterranean ports », Cahiers de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 80 | 2010, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2010, consulté le 20 octobre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Maria Helena Martins

Maria Helena Martins has a degree in Economics completed at the Superior Institute of Economical and Financial Sciences. She also has a Masters Degree in Contemporary History, completed at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences from New University of Lisbon. Her main research areas are the history of the Economic European Community, and the Portuguese participation and integration in the EEC and European Union. Her Master thesis developed these matters with rather a curious insight: Portugal e a aproximação à Europa: do acordo de 1972 ao pedido de adesão de Portugal à CEE, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, New University of Lisbon, 2006.

Ana Filipa Prata

Ana Prata est doctorante en Histoire contemporaine à la faculté de Sciences sociales et humaines de l’Université Nouvelle de Lisbonne, et est chercheuse intégrée de l’Institut d’Histoire Contemporaine. Ses recherches se centrent essentiellement sur l’histoire du développement et l’administration portuaire portugaise au XXe siècle. Publication : «Portuguese Seaports and the First World War: Trial and Error», dans Robert Lee, Adrian Jarvis (coord.), Port Cities at War, Centre for Port and Maritime History, Université de Liverpool, 2010. Disponible en CD-ROM: O Desenvolvimento Portuário Português: as Primeiras Juntas Autónomas e o Iº Plano Portuário Nacional, VIe édition des Jornadas de Engenharia Costeira e Portuária, organisé par l’Association Internationale Permanente des Congrès de Navigation (PIANC), section portugaise, et par l’APRAM (Administração dos Portos da Região Autónoma da Madeira, S.A.), Funchal, Octobre 2009.

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