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Transport Council in Antwerp to enhance Waterborne Transport role

Date: 13/10/2010

The Informal Transport Council on the full integration of waterborne transport into the EU transport and logistics chains was held in Antwerp on 15-16 September 2010, under the chairmanship of Belgian Secretary of State for Mobility Etienne Schouppe. 

Prior to the meeting, ECSA was actively involved in organising a visit of Commissioner Kallas to the Port of Antwerp on 13 September. In the presence of the Secretary of State for Transport/Mobility Etienne Schouppe, Mr. Emanuele Grimaldi and the director of the Antwerp Port Authority, Eddy Bruyninckx, Commissioner Kallas visited the Grimaldi ro-ro terminal in Verrebroekdok as well as some Grimaldi ships, following a presentation on logistics in the premises of the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association. 

During the Informal Council meeting, EU transport ministers welcomed the progress made in relation to the European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers, notably the new Customs Regulation and the directive on port reporting formalities. They encouraged the Commission to develop the idea of a single window for administrative procedures and advanced electronic communication and information systems (e-maritime). 

Ministers backed the idea of a 'pilot project' for the assessment of technical measures to reduce port formalities as part of the “Blue Belt” programme proposed by the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers. The Blue Belt concept should allow the creation of a “zone of all intra-EU waters where vessels can operate freely with all guarantees for safety, security and environmental protection”. The pilot project is due to be validated very soon, probably by the Transport Council on 15 October. This would involve around 200 ships and would call on existing technological means for monitoring and tracking (especially SafeSeaNet of the European Maritime Safety Agency, which would play a key role). 

As regards the reduction of sulphur limit emissions, EU transport ministers confirmed the previously-agreed IMO emission limits. While expressing concerns about possible modal backshift resulting from expected higher fuel costs, ministers agreed to evaluate possible responses and technical solutions based on increasing efficiency and innovation. Furthermore, they agreed that the present geographical coverage of the ECAs in Europe would need to be assessed with a view to its possible extension. In order to meet CO2 reduction target, the need for an instrument at global level was also stressed. Furthermore, it was proposed to develop a comprehensive approach to environmental issues which could lead to "sustainable waterborne transport toolbox, comprising notably the following components: regulatory measures, alternative fuels, such as LNG, 'green' technology, adequate infrastructure, economic and funding instruments, research and innovation”.

Focus was also on co-modal logistics, namely the need for co-modal arrangements for liability issues, as well as a single transport document. In this respect, reference was made to the “great potential” of the Rotterdam rules. 

Finally, EU transport ministers supported the Commission’s approach to developing a comprehensive social agenda for waterborne transport and to both promoting and better integrating careers related to maritime and inland waterways.

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