A slice of the Brussels cake
Mediterranean countries should continually work for efficient and sustainable logistics solutions, as they have consistently done in the past. In order to realise their plans they now have their sights on an EU funding programme – a move which has, to a certain degree, led them into confrontation with northern ports.
In a media release the Intermed Gateways association, which was founded by the three Mediterranean ports of Barcelona, Marseille and Genoa in 1998, called for a recently-announced EU funding programme to apply to the Mediterranean region too. The EU Commission has funds available to ensure that European transport links are sustainable and scalable (see box on page 15). The centres in the Intermed Gateways group were reacting to a northern hubs statement, which had said that the latter had legitimate claims to a large part of the funding.
The Mediterranean ports’ release said that «the new TEN-T represents a rather unique opportunity for the logistics industry to achieve a less congested, more efficient and more sustainable transport system. This trend can be accelerated if Mediterranean gateways can benefit from more efficient connectivity.»
Focus on Mediterranean centres
The body said that southern European hubs are willing to exchange views with the commission on how to allocate TEN-T funds efficiently, and to discuss the key role that Mediterranean gateways can play in producing competitive European freight connectivity. «Logistics activities currently generate unnecessary environmental stress for Europe’s citizens. Thanks to infrastructure improvements as well as greater efficiency and productivity, Mediterranean hubs are being recognised ever more as a competitive alternative that can improve the supply chain for European industries and consumers.» This development in Mediterranean gateways, which has been supported by EU policies and funds in the past, should continue in the coming years.
This will assist the continent in «achieving a balanced freight transport and logistics system in two complementary port regions, namely the Mediterranean and Northern ranges. They can guarantee balanced, efficient and sustainable access to EU markets,» representatives of the Mediterranean gateways said. The Genoa–Rotterdam railway connection can serve as a shining example. It is a part of the European high-speed network and probably the most important European north–south railfreight corridor.
Moreover, Mediterranean hubs represent a key element in the construction of European neighbourhood policy, as they are important centres for cargo and passenger flows to and from North African and Middle Eastern countries, the media release added. Labour costs can be lower in Mediterranean ports compared to the levels in other European basins, and cargo and terminal handling in the region has generally been privatised, thus offering considerably more reliable and productive transport and logistics activities.
In a growing process many European operators are shifting parts of their goods flows to Mediterranean ports. The trend could be accelerated if Mediterranean gateways were to benefit from more efficient road and rail hinterland connectivity. The southern European representatives are convinced that the continent’s transport network will benefit from greatly reduced congestion, pollutant emissions and wasted money if overall connectivity becomes more effective.
EUR 11.9 billion for core network
Siim Kallas, the EU Commission’s vice-president in charge of transport industry policies, has announced the availability of EUR 11.9 billion to fund improvements to European transport connections. Member states that are willing to co-finance projects have until 26 February 2015 to submit bids. The funding will focus on nine major corridors in Europe, which represent a core transport network and act as the economic backbone of the single European market. The funding is expected to further reduce bottlenecks, revolutionise east–west links and streamline cross-border transportation for businesses and citizens in the entire union.
The new core network, which is set to be established by 2030, will connect 94 main ports with rail and road links; set up rail links between 38 key airports and major cities and upgrade 15,000 km of railway lines to high-speed status.
The almost EUR 12 billion represents the largest single amount of European Union funding ever earmarked for transport infrastructure. The results of the bidding and the allocation to projects will be announced in summer 2015.