"Inflexible ports" hamper shortsea

May, 31 2004

Europe's shortsea shipping industry continues to be held back by inefficient ports, according to EC. Cristobal Milan de la Lastra, EC policy officer for shortsea shipping, told delegates at last week's Ro-Ro 2004 conference in Gothenburg that a lack of flexibility at port facilities and a failure to apply transparent charges had slowed development. He said: "Shortsea shipping is essential to Europe. Our roads are heavily congested and the concept of just-in-time logistics is in danger of collapse. But the [shortsea] mode suffers from a number of problems. Most importantly, it has not integrated itself sufficiently into the intermodal door-to-door supply chains". The commission's shortsea drive is supported by the Marco Polo project, which was approved last year and is designed to aid new European intermodal links by offering subsidies to start-up ventures. Cristobal Milan de la Lastra said € 15m had been budgeted in the first round of the programme. Projects were expected to cost an average of €1.5m, and around €100 had been earmarked for the next five years. Emmanuele Grimaldi, MD of Grimaldi, agreed that ports needed to become more transparent and less bureaucratic if shortsea was to make progress in Europe. "The question is how competitive are the ports? I believe that if they were more efficient, there would be no need for money from government," he said. Grimaldi added that he had noticed a growing trend among short sea shippers and forwarders to opt for Ro-Ro transport over container shipping, as they attempted to get cargo from A to B as quickly and as cheaply as possible. He said Ro-Ro operators should capitalise on this situation, but warned that port charges were excessive in some cases. "It's a grey area, but sometimes terminal handling charges are as high as € 100 per unit," he said. "Taking loading and unloading into account, that's € 200, or around 50 % of the total freight cost on a shortsea route." Work is also continuing on the development of the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) concept, which aims to bypass European bottlenecks, such as Alps and Pyrenees, by introducing efficient, frequent shipping services. Areas earmarked for these "motorways" are the Baltic Sea and waters off Western Europe, south-east Europe and south-west Europe. The EC has promised guidelines to help MoS applicants in the near future. Jacques Mesnildrey, commercial manager at Cherbourg told that the French port intended to launch three MoS routes in partnership with ports in Northern Europe, Ireland and Spain. He would not name Cherbourg's planned partners but said he would soon be submitting his proposal to the EC

IFW - by Jason Holland