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17 December 2020

Ports key to EU’s connectivity according to the new plan for green mobility


Last week, the European Commission (EC) presented its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, accompanied by an Action Plan of 82 initiatives, meant to lay the foundation for the green and digital transformation of the EU transport.

According to the document, all transport modes need to become more sustainable by making green alternatives widely accessible. The result, already outlined in the European Green Deal (EGD), should be a 90% cut in emissions for the transport sector by 2050.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the EGD, said, “To reach our climate targets, emissions from the transport sector must get on a clear downward trend. Today's strategy will shift the way people and goods move across Europe and make it easy to combine different modes of transport in a single journey. We've set ambitious targets for the entire transport system to ensure a sustainable, smart, and resilient return from the COVID-19 crisis.”

What does it mean for ports and the BSR?

According to the strategy, ports are key for EU’s international connectivity, for the European economy, and for their respective regions. In their transition to zero-emission nodes, the best practices followed by the most sustainable ports should become the new normal. Inland and sea ports have a great potential to become new clean energy hubs for integrated electricity systems, hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels, as well as testbeds for waste reuse and the circular economy.
With numerous Baltic ports already leading the charge in setting ambitious emission goals for themselves, this presents a great opportunity to underscore the Baltic Sea region’s (BSR) positioning as the role model for green ports and maritime transport and share their long-established best practices with others.

Within the plan, the EC pledges to propose measures to make ports clean, by incentivizing the deployment of renewable and low-carbon fuels and feeding stationed vessels with renewable power instead of fossil energy, optimization of port calls and through a wider use of smart traffic management. The BSR has a longstanding tradition in being the frontrunner when it comes to solutions related to all these fields, with numerous ports already offering LNG bunkering and shore-power access, as well as sea traffic management initiatives.

The document recognizes the success of already established Emission Control Areas (ECAs), of which there are a number in the BSR. Next region to be covered is the Mediterranean Sea, with plans to start similar work in the Black Sea. This presents yet another opportunity for the BSR to share its know-how and experience with such projects, as there are many challenges to be overcome, both from the side of ports and vessel operators.

As the EGD calls for a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight carried today by road to shift to rail and inland waterways, the plan notes short-sea shipping (SSS) as another viable way to contribute to the greening of freight transport in Europe. Transport by inland waterways and SSS is set to increase by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. This can be coupled with the promise to support the development of zero-emission vessels powered by alternative fuels such as hydrogen or electricity, which can be a feasible option for SSS.

Bogdan Oldakowski, Secretary General, BPO, offered the following comment, “The recently presented Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy sets very ambitious goals for whole transport sector in the EU. There are certain efforts requested from the port industry in order to reach EU’s planned climate neutrality by 2050. Baltic ports will proceed to contribute to these goals by continuing their work to deploy new fuel infrastructure for ships. Moreover, they will apply digitalization and new technologies to increase efficiency in energy use and in port services and operations. These actions will lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions and reaching the set climate neutrality goals.”

The document can be downloaded directly from EC’s website under the following link.





10 December 2020

Shipping and port operations are going to become autonomous and green


The Scandria Aliiance Working Group on Multimodality & Digitalisation organized a webinar on the potentials of Automation in Maritime and Inland Waterway transport on 2nd December 2020.
Presenters from the Port of Helsingborg, the Port of Venice, Berlin Westhafen and Kongsberg Maritime gave an overview of the state of the art on automation in waterbound transport.

The Joint Spatial Planning Department introduced listeners to the Scandria®Alliance and the Scandinavian Adriatic Corridor.
The 74 attendees representing regions from the entire Scandria®Corridor, from Norway to Italy, were briefed by the Port of Venice on a new planning software, which allows for a more efficient planning of railbound transport in ports. The Port of Helsinborg gave an insight into their strategy on automation, digitalization and electrification until 2035, with the goal to not only find more environmental-friendly solutions but also increase the ports handling capacity. Kongsberg Maritime gave an overview over the current attempts to develop autonomous ships within the H2020 project Autoship but also on other projects, such as the Yara Birkeland and the ASKO Sea Drones. BEHALA, as the operator of the Berlin Westhafen port, presented their A-Swarm project, aiming at developing autonomous vessel-units, that operate independently or in formation as one unit.

A few days after the 2nd International Ship Autonomy and Sustainability Summit, held by the European Commission, the webinar clearly showed that there is a lot of activities related to autonomous shipping in the Scandria®Corridor regions. The presenters clearly stated, that in this early phase of development, it is essential to collaborate to share knowledge. Especially for smaller market actors it is difficult to bear the full risk.

Documentation of the webinar is available here:

02 December 2020

European Commission encourages a maritime future which includes Autonomous and Sustainable Ships and Shipping


On the occasion of the 2nd International Ship Autonomy and Sustainability Summit, the European Commission together with EU Member States, Norway and with valuable industry input published today the comprehensive PDF EU Operational Guidelines on trials of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships. It allows for a harmonised European approach by clarifying the roles of authorities and applicants and provides guidance of what to consider in their assessments when facing Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) trials, including risk assessments. With these Guidelines, the European Commission promotes a high level of maritime safety, which is a precondition for a smart and sustainable autonomous maritime future.

Commissioner Vălean stated: “Automated ships represent an exciting prospect for the future of shipping. They have the potential to increase safety and productivity as well as contribute towards the sustainability goals for maritime transport. Their deployment needs to build on tests and trials, which put their safety at the top of our priorities. I warmly welcome the EU Operational Guidelines on trials of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (LINK), developed with our Member States and Norway. We will continue to engage also internationally, to steer the safe, sustainable and smart development of tomorrow’s ships.”

In the margin of the 2nd International Ship Autonomy and Sustainability Summit, co-organised with the Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ships, Commissioner Adina Vălean exchanged on the future of autonomous ships with Ministers from Germany, Finland, Norway and South Korea, the Secretary General of IMO as well as high-level experts. The Summit included some 500 registered participants and experts interacting with three high level panels carefully considering how MASS can support the central policy of smart, safe, sustainable and resilient maritime transport in the EU as well as internationally.

Maritime Autonomous Ships and Shipping




24 November 2020

Commission publishes a toolkit on sustainability transitions for cohesion policy


The European Green Deal is the EU’s strategy to make its economy and society fit for a healthy planet. It is a policy agenda that seeks to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and ensure climate-neutrality by 2050 and advocates systemic changes to achieve this. High-level reports, such as the 2020 State and Outlook of the Environment, highlight the importance of sustainability transitions, deep transformations in societal systems needed to reach the long-term environmental and climate goals.

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy has published a toolkit to help national and regional authorities to help support necessary systemic changes through cohesion policy. It contains good practice principles to promote sustainability transitions in the planning and delivery of Partnership Agreements and Programmes for the 2021-2027 funding period. This will help Member States and regions deliver the increased ambition of the European Green Deal within cohesion policy.

The toolkit is accompanied by a report with additional case studies, inspiring examples and more detailed information. Translations of the toolkit will be made available shortly.

These documents are part of the support provided to Member States and regions to deliver the objectives of the European Green Deal, including a just transition, through cohesion policy. The Commission's proposals for a long-term budget including Next Generation EU offer ample investment opportunities for the transition to a climate-neutral and circular economy, leaving no region behind.




17 November 2020

Boosting European rail transport: harmonised procedures across the whole EU


Saturday 31 October is the deadline for Member States to transpose the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, thereby granting the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) powers needed to become Europe’s single certification body for rail vehicles and railway traffic operators.

European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport Adina Vălean said: "Tomorrow marks an important day for the European rail sector – the transposition deadline for the rail safety and interoperability directives. The full implementation of Fourth Railway Package across the whole EU is key to boost rail transport. Therefore, I count on the Member States which haven't transposed it yet to do their outmost to fulfil this obligation very soon. The implementation of its technical pillar will significantly simplify procedures and reduce costs for railway undertakings operating across Europe. We are making rail more efficient, safe, affordable and thus more competitive vis-à-vis other modes of transport. This is a big step on our way to decarbonise Europe's transport sector and to make rail more attractive ahead of 2021 - the European Year of Rail."

Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Josef Doppelbauer said: "After having started our new role of European authority with initially eight Member States in June 2019, we are crossing the finish line tomorrow. We have already taken more than 1 000 decisions and authorised more than 10 000 vehicles. With the extension of our competence to the whole EU, we reach another milestone on the way to the Single European Railway Area, helping rail to become the transport mode of the 21st century."

Within its new role, the Agency will take responsibility for vehicle authorisation, safety certification, and European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) trackside approval across all Member States.

This is an important change for the European rail system. In the past, train operators, manufacturers or anyone who planned to operate in or sell to clients in more than one Member State, had to apply for vehicle authorisations and safety certificates separately in every Member State concerned. From 31 October onwards, only one application must be filed through ERA’s One-Stop Shop IT tool (OSS).

The new, simplified procedure aims to reduce costs and administrative burden for the rail industry, it will make the European rail system more transparent, more efficient and therefore more competitive vis-à-vis other modes of transport. The harmonised processes contribute to higher levels of safety, interoperability and reliability in the European rail network. The unique approach for vehicle authorisation will also reduce time-to-market for emerging technologies.

ERA has also become the single entry point for the approval of ERTMS trackside infrastructure. ERTMS is the European signalling and train control system. It is gradually replacing different national schemes, to create a seamless European railway system.

With the transposition of the Fourth Railway Package on 31 October new harmonised procedures will be applicable across the whole of the European rail network.

The Fourth Railway Package is a set of legislative texts designed to complete the single market for rail services (Single European Railway Area). It puts an end to diverging technical, operational and legal requirements at Member State level that hamper the efficiency of international rail operations. The package was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2016 and consists of two pillars:

The so-called market pillar aims at increasing competition, thereby improving cost-effectiveness and quality of rail services.

The new harmonised procedures involving ERA stem from the technical pillar of the Package, which aims at reducing costs and administrative burden for railway undertakings operating across the European Union. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the final transposition deadline was extended, giving Member States until 31 October 2020 to complete their process.

As one of the most sustainable and safest modes of transport, rail plays an important role in Europe's future mobility system and is key for the delivery of the European Green Deal. The European Commission has therefore proposed to declare 2021 the European Year of Rail, to shine a spotlight on rail, its benefits and remaining challenges during the year ahead.




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