Shortsea Shipping Gathering Momentum: Here & in Europe

U.S. proposed legislation and EU discussions shedding new light and hope on shortsea possibilities as a way to both reinvigorate economy and help improve the condition of “overwhelmed” U.S. highways.

Lautenberg Introduces Maritime Administration Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2010.

Today, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved legislation Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) to reduce congestion on the nation’s roads by encouraging freight to be carried by ships. The measure would create a grant program for ‘America’s Marine Highways’ to encourage shipping by sea or inland waterway and establish a new program to modernize port facilities to make efficiently transport freight. The bill would also establish a Port Infrastructure Development Program to improve the capabilities of port facilities to move freight.

“The strength of our freight transportation system is being threatened by our overwhelmed roads and bridges – and the simple, smart solution is to ship more of America’s goods by sea,” said Sen. Lautenberg, “Shipping by barge reduces congestion on roads, cuts emissions and energy consumption, and improves safety.”

Sen. Lautenberg’s bill, the Maritime Administration Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2010, would create a grant program to establish America’s Marine Highway as an extension of the surface transportation system. A single sea vessel can take more than 450 trucks off the nation’s roads. The typical barge or ship can move one ton of cargo 576 miles on one gallon of fuel, whereas a truck would move that same cargo only 155 miles. America’s sea ports are the critical link between all modes of transportation and the ability to move freight throughout the country, as ships carry more than 95 percent of the nation's non-North American trade by weight and 75 percent by value. Approximately three-quarters of international shipments to and from the United States, measured in weight, arrive or depart by ship.

Maritime sector: Commission looking for joint actions to tackle economic crisis.

The European Commission held a two-day discussion with representatives from Member States, captains of maritime transport and the European Investment Bank in order to discuss the impact of the economic crisis on maritime transport industries. Together they reviewed the contribution of European actions aimed at helping the sector cope with and overcome difficulties resulting from the economic crisis. The discussions took place in the framework of the annual meeting of stakeholders and experts on Short Sea Shipping and Motorways of the Sea, gathering also accession and EFTA countries and Shortsea promotion centres.

"The development of Short Sea Shipping is at the core of the European transport policy as it is a central part of Europe's future sustainable transport system. We need to develop a network of real Motorways of the Sea that link European regions as well as the EU to its neighbours. Today's meeting has been useful to understand the difficulties experienced by the sector and to think about possible solutions", said Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani in charge of transport.

Participants reviewed ongoing policy measures and agreed to analyse by October 2009 a number of additional short-term support measures which should help the sector to emerge strengthened from the current crisis. Various types of incentives were identified, such as:

1. promoting environmentally-performing vessels;
2. loan guarantees for risk mitigating measures for the start up of new services in new Short Sea Shipping Motorways of the Sea start;
3. encouraging investments for port developments and hinterland connections;
4. support of containerisation and of unaccompanied transport.

The Commission strongly supports Short Sea Shipping as an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way to transport goods and passengers. Motorways of the Sea, based upon Short Sea Shipping, are a key initiative to address ever increasing transport by trucks on the EU's ever more congested motorways. It is a cheaper alternative to building new or extending existing motorways. It also helps improve the accessibility of remote regions of Europe and connect the EU with its neighbours.

Furthermore, Vice-President Günter Verheugen will meet on 11 September in Bremerhaven (Germany) some high-level representatives from Member States and industry to discuss strategic shipbuilding matters. These coming discussions will take into consideration and further develop the industrial aspects of today's meeting.

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