The European Commission defines Short Sea Shipping as follows:
“ Short Sea Shipping means the movement of cargo and passengers by sea between ports situated in geographical Europe or between those ports and ports situated in non-European countries having a coastline on the enclosed seas bordering Europe.??
Several Communications since 1995
The European Commission published several communications on Short Sea Shipping, the first one dating back from 1995. A second communication followed in 1999 (SSS-001). Later there also came a Directive on reporting facilities (2001 and 2010), a communication on a European maritime transport space without barriers (2007) and a pilot project called ‘Blue Belt’ (see further).
The overall aim of these initiatives is the promotion of Short Sea Shipping by proposals to improve its efficiency. In the Communication of 1999, a study compared different administrative documents and procedures between different Member States. On the basis of the conclusions of this study, a set of voluntary measures were proposed that would contribute to more uniformity.
The programme proposed at that time by the Commission focused on 14 actions which should have enlarged the role of Short Sea Shipping in Europe. These involved legal actions (e.g. a Directive on notification formalities for ships arriving at and/or sailing from a port in a Member State of the Community, IMO-FAL), technical actions (e.g. mutual adaptation of the national application of computerisation of the Community’s Customs procedures) and operational action such as the promotion of the image of Short Sea Shipping as a valid transport alternative.
A European maritime space without barriers
As part of its 2007 Logistics Package (see chapter 6), the Commission produced a staff working document on a 'European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers'. To simplify administrative and reporting procedures, a consultation process started, helping for Short Sea Shipping to take full advantage of the internal market and to come on par with the other transport modes. This resulted in a Communication 'on a European Maritime transport space without barriers' that was published on 21 January 2009.
The concept of the European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers (EMTSB) aims to improve the effectiveness of the intra-European maritime transport by abolishing administrative burdens for coastal shipping. This concept is just one element in a broader approach which also contains support of new short sea shipping lines through the Marco Polo programme, transparency of port dues, efficient rail and inland waterway connections to hinterlands, reduction of environment burdens by ports and ships, Motorways of the Sea and other TEN-T projects.
The European Commission sees the unnecessary complex, sometimes superfluous and not harmonised regulations and administrative procedures in the different Member States as bottlenecks. This is especially the case in the area of customs and taxation, border control, trade, statistics, environment and waste, public and environmental health and safety and security. Other bottlenecks concerning Short Sea Shipping are: transport of dangerous goods, linguistic issues, compulsory pilotage, not universally accepted electronic manifests and the limited availability of a single window approach to handle all the formalities.
In order to resolve these bottlenecks, the EMTSB action plan contained short and long term measures for the European Commission to take in 2010 and 2013 respectively. Moreover, the Commission issued recommendations to Member States and to local stakeholders (see chapter 15 on Motorways of the Sea and more specifically MOS-005).
Reporting formalities for ships
In 2001, the European Commission proposed a Drective on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or sailing from ports of the Member States of the Union (SSS-002). The aim of this Directive is to standardise reporting formalities, by using the uniform IMO-FAL forms, thus promoting Short Sea Shipping. On 18 February 2002, Council and Parliament approved the Directive (SSS-003). Member States had to implement the necessary legal and administrative provisions no later than 9 September 2003.
On 20 October 2010, the IMO-FAL Directive was replaced by a new Directive on reporting formalities for all ships calling at EU ports (SSS-004). As from 1 June 2015, all vessels registered under the flag of an EU Member State must deliver certain information not later than 24 hours before arrival. Before this date, Member States have to set up single window information points where ships can deliver their information and where the information can be linked to the information used in other shipping systems, such as Safe Sea Net, E-customs and others. The Directive does not prescribe a certain language, but calls on the Member States to facilitate communication in maritime transport.
In the context of EMTSB, the pilot project Blue Belt was set up. The purpose of Blue Belt is to maximise facilitation of the intra-EU carriage of goods by ship. Blue Belt is a European Cooperation project of DG Move and DG Taxud. The implementation lies with EMSA and national customs authorities. The organisation contains a steering committee (EMSA, Taxud, Pt, Fi, Be, It, UK, Cy and Nl) and a correspondence group (ECSA, WSC, individual shipping companies and ESPO).
There was much interest to participate in Blue Belt. In total there were 251 ships registered which participated in the first phase of the pilot project. The list of ships was made available to customs authorities of Member States and contained the name of the ship, IMO-registration, information on shipping route and the ports of call. The list was regularly updated and complemented in the course of the project. Maritime customs authorities were being informed automatically of the arrival of a ‘Blue Ship’ in their port. This information made it possible for customs to assess the risk and spare bona fide ships from unnecessary customs control.
In the first phase of the project (which ran from 2 May 2011 until 30 June 2011), the customs authorities received a report from EMSA two hours before the ship arrival. These reports contained information on the ship, captain, number of crew members, port of sailing, the voyage and ISPS data (the ten previous ports of call). Besides, they received a graphic image of the route sailed by the ship. This image forms an important element for the customs to assess risk.
In the second phase (which ran from 1 July 2011 until 3 November 2011) it was also possible that:
- Customs could, on request, get access to the graphic interface of Blue Belt. This made it possible to get information on other ships in the vicinity of the Blue Ship.
- Customs got information on the behaviour of the ship, e.g. an unforeseen visit to another port (e.g. in North Africa), changing speeds, deviating routes (sailing in cycles, lying still).
- AIS-Satellite information became available as back-up information.
The pilot project was finalised with an evaluation aimed at technologies, safety and security and facilitation aspects. The Commission is planning to issue a specific Communication on Blue Belt and the accompanying Blue Lanes in ports in spring 2013, together with the new Communication on ports (see chapter 5). The Communication is expected to include an action plan, but the concrete measures envisaged were not clear yet at the time of closing this overview.
Some relevant documents:
SSS-004: Directive 2010/65/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on reporting formalities for ships arriving and/or departing from ports of the Member States and repealing Directive 2002/6/EC (European Parliament and the Council)
SSS-003: Directive 2002/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 February 2002 on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States of the Community (European Parliament and the Council)
SSS-002: Communication from the Commission – programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping (European Commission)
SSS-001: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – The Development of Short Sea Shipping in Europe: A Dynamic Alternative in a Sustainable Transport Chain (European Commission)