ETF calls on member states and the European Commission to show political will and take action for sustainable and quality shipping in Europe

10 Feb 2022

A Fair and Sustainable Shipping is our proposal for a future European Maritime Space.

To start building together the foundation of such a future space, an essential aspect needs to be addressed from the very beginning: how can EU initiatives contribute to sustainable and quality shipping in Europe by promoting a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom?

We are glad to have discussed these topics during the 9th of February Symposium, the French Presidency of the Council of the EU decided to dedicate to employment and skills challenges in the European maritime transport and services sector.

We genuinely think it’s time for Europe to get serious about enhancing seafarers’ living and working conditions and protecting its maritime jobs and maritime skills base! Based on a recent project, we have already pointed out the need to create a European Maritime Space for maritime services within the EU without social dumping.

There is no other way of ensuring the safety of our seafarers unless we combat social dumping and unfair competition in Europe. As already indicated in the conclusions of the project mentioned above, seafarers working in European waters should be treated in the same way as shore-based workers.

 Why is that?

Today, shipping companies operating in European waters can recruit their seafarers globally. European seafarers are therefore competing directly with seafarers coming from countries with much lower employment terms and conditions. It creates downward pressure on terms and conditions and social protection for European crews, thus paving the way to social dumping in European waters. The resulting situation distorts competition and could adversely affect safety and the environment.

Reduced job opportunities for European seafarers also negatively impact the attractiveness of the profession, discouraging young people from considering a career at sea. This could lead to a shortage of maritime personnel and an erosion of maritime knowledge and skills in traditional seafaring countries in the EU.

We are convinced that it will be difficult for these countries to develop effective maritime policies and their maritime clusters without a domestic maritime skills base. At the same time, the lack of highly qualified European maritime professionals will make it difficult for Europe to create sustainable and quality shipping services. If Europe is serious about protecting its maritime jobs and maritime skills base, reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions, facilitating a modal shift by releasing the potential of short sea shipping connections, and rejuvenating its maritime clusters for the benefit of the broader European economy, then the concept of a European Maritime Space for socially sustainable shipping offers a solid foundation to build on.

We are convinced this is the way to move forward, and building such a safe maritime space for our seafarers would work if:

  1. Companies benefiting from EU law also apply EU standards to their workers ashore and at sea.
  2. Companies benefiting from EU state aid give back to the community and produce quality training and jobs.

This level playing field would ultimately benefit the development of high-quality maritime clusters and safeguard decent job opportunities for the European maritime professionals.