ETF on the EU’s Motorways of the Sea: new implementation plans are an improvement but social aspects still missing

1 Jul 2020


The EU’s new implementation plan of the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) concept has reinvented their core principles, with a new focus on a concept of a sustainable, seamless and smart European Maritime Space. MoS aims to cover the whole maritime cluster and its infrastructure needs by enhancing links between ports and shipping. These changes are to be seen as part of the revision of the TEN-T Guidelines and take the European Green Deal as a starting point.

Many of the shortcomings and weaknesses identified in the previous implementation plan are being addressed in the new plan. Issues such as short-term project-based approaches and lack of attention to labour and environmental challenges have been partially included in the new proposal.

Nevertheless, the plan could be substantially improved if it were to:

  • Include more attention to training and skills needs. In the face of changing market developments, changing demographics and major challenges such as climate change and digitalisation, skills and competencies will be crucial to develop a true sustainable, smart and seamless European Maritime Space.
  • Reinforce the part on “European added value” as a return on investment or conditionality. How can the Commission ensure when investments are made in the Motorways of the Sea, TEN-T, through the increased Connecting Europe Facility funding instrument for example, that these investments create jobs, secure employment and good working conditions in line with the European pillar of social rights?

ETF expects Motorways of the Sea to contribute to the creation of sustainable employment opportunities for European workers in the maritime sector, and in particular for European maritime professionals in short sea shipping.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the complexity of a global industry with unfettered mobility of labour and capital. The crisis can be a “game-changer” and we now have the opportunity to safeguard a level playing field and implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aimed at ending poverty and achieving social and environmental progress. Any “vision for the future” of waterborne transport shall implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, and put fair working conditions and fair competition at its core.

These questions need to be resolved. If not in the frame of the Motorways of the Sea, then in other measures covering sustainable management of EU investments. ETF will also stand ready to provide the European Commission with input when developing the new EU strategy for transport.

You can find ETF’s detailed response to the new implementation plan here.