ETF casts a critical eye over the Mid-Term Review of the EU’s Maritime Transport Policy

18 Sep 2014

180914_Athens declaration

On 5 June 2014, the Council of the EU adopted the conclusions formulated in the context of the mid-term review of the EU’s maritime transport policy until 2018 and outlook to 2020. The review has been based on the so-called Athens Declaration that sets EU shipping policy priorities for the coming years. While welcoming the importance the Council is attaching to the EU maritime transport sector, the ETF considers the Political Declaration as flawed and lacking a meaningful and unequivocal commitment to promote more and better jobs at sea for European domiciled seafarers, be they ratings or officers.

The ETF position paper on the mid-term review poses a number of pertinent questions and raises concerns about Europe’s commitment to promote, next to the economic and environmental sustainability, a genuine social sustainability of the EU maritime transport sector.

Is Europe prepared to stop the extinction of EU-domiciled seafarers?
The ETF notes that the declaration makes numerous references to securing the competitiveness for the fleets of EU Member States but lacks one single allusion to EU-domiciled seafarers. EU policy makers seem to have blind faith in an increased access to markets and further liberalisation of trade in maritime services but remain blind to the threats such a profit-driven agenda brings, namely a negative impact on national seafaring jobs in the EU.

Does the EU taxpayer get value for money?
The ETF further calls upon the EU policy makers to stop unconditionally granting State aid to maritime transport. There exists overwhelming evidence that the existing state aid regime to maritime transport had too little impact on training and employment of European nationals. Furthermore, it is regrettable to see that the granting of State aid also benefited to Flag of Convenience (FOC) tonnage, thus enabling some shipowners to reduce their manning costs as far as possible by replacing European seafarers by low-cost third country nationals while continuing to take advantage of the fiscal incentives. Aid recipients have to be obliged to demonstrate that EU taxpayers’ money is resulting in job opportunities and more training for EU nationals, the ETF demands.

Exploiting the full potential of Short Sea Shipping to create quality jobs in the EU maritime cluster
In its paper, ETF wishes to convey to the Shipping Ministers that the promotion of intra-Community shipping is not only about making business grow and serving the interests of consumers in Europe. Short Sea Shipping should also contribute to promote the recruitment and retention of a highly skilled European workforce, ratings and officers, to take up a career in the maritime industry, hence securing a vibrant and prosperous maritime cluster here in Europe. To achieve this, a voluntary regulatory action by the EU Policy Makers will be required aiming at countering social dumping in European waters.

An appropriate agenda for tomorrow’s EU shipping sector: investing in the human element!
The position paper concludes with welcoming some positive statements made in the Athens Declaration under the chapter on Human Resources, Seamanship and Maritime Know-how, but remains sceptical since it is unclear if it will serve EU-domiciled seafarers rather than the global maritime labour force. With a list of recommendations for revising the EU maritime transport agenda up to 2020, the ETF draws in its paper a concrete pathway to re-orientate the EU shipping in a new direction, one that shows real engagement to achieve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the maritime industry in Europe.

You can download the ETF position paper by clicking on the link below.