Cautious Optimism From European Port Executives
There was an atmosphere of cautious optimism for the future when European port executives in the port association ESPO met in Gothenburg for their annual conference. Following a ballot, 78 per cent of the delegates felt that the worst of the crisis was behind them. However, European ports still face a succession of challenges.
The European economy is working its way back after a number of difficult years. A long-awaited recovery is gradually emerging.
In his keynote speech, OECD Deputy Secretary-General Yves Leterme stated that the slow yet steady upturn in Europe ought to result in growth for the ports during the coming years. "Our forecasts reveal that there is potential for container traffic to rise to 90 million TEU by 2015. In 2013, the figure was 80 million."
In time, the European ports could face a whole host of factors that will impact on global transport patterns. The emergence of new ports on the Black Sea, the increase in traffic across the North Pole and expansion of the Panama Canal were just some of the subjects covered by the various speakers.
The theme for this year's ESPO Conference, hosted by the Port of Gothenburg, was 'Level Playing Field'. Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the Minister of Shipping, Maritime Affairs and the Aegean in Greece, the current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, stated that after the European elections, the EU Commission ought to produce a structure for competition between European ports.
"We must have a clear picture of what the situation should be. Are European ports competing with each other or with other ports outside Europe? Is Piraeus competing with Barcelona or Izmir, Istanbul and Haifa? If we are not clear on the guidelines, it could have a bearing on the competitiveness of our ports in the future."