MOS - Motorways of the Sea

    MOS Motorways of the sea

    Promoting intermodal transport
    The promotion of intermodal transport has been the driving force of the European Transport Policy for a long time. The strong motives are: processing the ever growing goods flow, dealing with road congestion, improving road safety, environmental quality and sustainability. Promoting intermodal transport implies  strengthening of the role railways, inland waterways and Short Sea Shipping in the global transport system. Promoting Short Sea Shipping can be done in three ways: (a) improving the infrastructure, which is the topic of this chapter; (b) smoothing out administrative bottlenecks, (see chapter 10 ‘Short Sea Shipping’); (c) supporting the providers of intermodal transport services (including short sea shippers), (see chapter 46 ‘Marco Polo’).

    The concept ‘Motorways of the Sea’ (MOS) was first introduced in the White Paper on European Transport Policy of 2001. The White Paper proposed to design logistic corridors based on Short Sea Shipping, which would be similar to the motorways on land. Thanks to extra capacity, these corridors would enable maritime transport to compete with road and to contribute to the realisation of the 'modal shift' objective.

    MOS as a part of TEN-T
    Article 12a of the current TEN-T guidelines (i.e. those applicable until the 2011 proposals are adopted) further developed the concept of MOS concerning the establishment of the infrastructure network (MOS-001). This article maintains that the Trans-European Network of maritime motorways contains facilities (port services) and infrastructure in which at least two ports from two different Member States are involved. Besides infrastructure and facilities, it is possible that activities with a wider added value are also taken into account. These activities for instance include dredging, icebreaking and information systems.

    These corridors are part of a project of European interest:

    • Motorway of the Baltic sea (linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in Central and Western Europe, including the route through the North Sea/Baltic Sea Canal);
    • Motorway of the Sea of Western Europe (leading from Portugal and Spain via the Atlantic arc to the North Sea and the Irish Sea);
    • Motorway of the Sea of South-East Europe (connecting the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus);
    • Motorway of the Sea of South-West Europe (Western Mediterranean, connecting Spain, France, Italy and including Malta and linking with the Motorway of the Sea of South-West Europe and including links to the Black Sea).

    Together, these form priority project n° 21 under the currently applicable TEN-T guidelines.
    The European Commission published a Vademecum which should ease the understanding of article 12a, especially of the procedural aspects (MOS-002). There is a strong emphasis on fast and high quality services in the ports.

    Infrastructure and providing services
    While the Marco Polo programme focuses on the support of new services and modal shift (among others Short Sea Shipping), the TEN-T actions focus more on infrastructure and on the actual provision of services. Both programmes were seen as complementary and it was possible to apply both for one project, maybe even supplemented with additional aid from regional funds.

    The High Level Group concerning the extension of the TEN-T network to EU neighbouring countries has contributed to the further development of the concept. The High Level Group wanted to improve the connections between the EU and its neighbouring countries through a series of priority measures. Five major transnational axis’s were defined, one of them being MOS. The report proposed to extent the already existing corridors. The corridors within the transnational axis’s MOS would therefore have to be connected with the neighbouring countries in the Baltic Sea, the Barentz Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. In all EU neighbouring countries, at least one port per maritime sector had to be selected as a MOS port. From this port, it would be possible to set up a -MOS connection to the EU.

    In preparation of the ministerial conference on the MOS in Ljubljana on 24 January 2006, , the European Commission published a brochure to further clarify the MOS concept (MOS-003).

    As part of the 2007 Logistics Package, there was also a working document concerning Motorways of the Sea. In this document, the progress of the project achievements was presented  and suggestions were made for improving quality.

    Annual call for presenting MOS projects
    The EU has an annual call for proposals for MOS projects. A budget of 310 million euro (indicative) was available for the period 2009-2013.

    Year    Available budget (€ mln)
    2009    85
    2010    100
    2011    50
    2012    25

    The TEN-T guidelines which are currently applicable clearly state that the maximum support for an infrastructure project is 20% (30% for transnational projects) and 50% for research projects.

    On 10 February 2010, the European Commission set up an assistance and information service for finance resources for MOS ( During the same year, 14 proposals for MOS projects were introduced, nine of which were approved: three study/pilot projects (33 million euros) and six projects (52 million euros).

    See also: map of Motorways of the Sea (MOS-004).

    Future of the MOS concept
    In the proposal for the new TEN-T guidelines (see chapter 11), Motorways of the Sea are represented as the maritime dimension of the TEN-T. The proposed guidelines indicate that Motorways of the Sea have to consist of short-sea routes, ports, associated maritime infrastructure and equipment as well as facilities enabling short-sea shipping or sea-river services between at least two ports, including hinterland connections, in at least two different Member States. Concretely, Motorways of the Sea should include:

    • Maritime links between maritime ports of the comprehensive network
    • Port facilities, information and communication technologies (ICT), such as electronic logistics management systems, safety and security and administrative and customs procedures in at least one Member State;
    • Infrastructure for direct land and sea access.

    Meanwhile, voices in Parliament and Council are asking for a more thorough revision of the Motorways of the Sea concept. Concerns related to potential distortion of competition with existing short-sea services have been recurring frequently.

    Some relevant documents:
    MOS-005: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States of the Community and repealing Directive 2002/6/EC (European Commission)

    MOS-004: Map of the Motorways of the Sea (European Commission)

    MOS-003: Motorways of the Sea - Shifting freight off Europe's roads (European Commission)

    MOS-002: Motorways of the Sea Art. 12a of the TEN-T Guidelines - A Vademecum issued in conjunction with the call for proposals TEN-T 2005 (European Commission)

    MOS-001: Decision No …./2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Decision No 1692/96/EC on Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network (European Parliament and the Council)