23.12.2020

Dear friends of the ports,

A strange year is about to end. 2020 has truely been a historical one, from a human perspective but also in all businesses and sectors, including the port industry.

The pandemic has hit our customers, their staff and organisatons at the same time. The crisis has hit the whole port community, service providers, public authorities, all stakeholders and their people. Never before in our recent history has there been such a global human and economical crisis.

Europe’s seaports, amongst other industries, have taken up their role and have been ensuring the continuity of supply chains throughout the pandemic and the lockdowns. With a prominent resilience, Europe’s seaports have revealed the strength of our industry. The recovery has started, but it will take time before we come back to business as normal. If not ever. In fact, I do not believe that there is a ”new normal”, there is the Future, in which European seaports will play a significant role.

The Green Deal ambition, which was put forward one year ago, has become more concrete over the last year. First initatives are in the making, the latest one being the just published EU Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. The Mobility Strategy is putting forward flagship programmes and milestones accompanied by concrete initatives to achieve the 90% emission reduction in transport, necessary to reach the overal Green Deal objective of making Europe climate neutral by 2050. We support these efforts and this plan. We endorse the goal-based approach and are grateful for the recognition of ESPO’s environmental flagship roject, EcoPorts.

But the Green Deal implementation must be seen together with Europe’s Next Generation EU ambition and the Open Strategic Autonomy approach for trade. Europe’s ports will be partners in the greening of the transport sector, but they are much more than refueling stations.  As gateways to trade, centers of multimodality, crucial nodes of new energies, hubs of industry, nodes of digitalisation and blue economy, they are central to Europe’s green recovery and trade strategies and must be supported as such. Europe must continue and, if possible, reinforce its investments and support for Europe’s ports and must continue to consider ports as strategic assets.

Last but not least, ports can play a fundamental role as hubs of digitalisation. They  may facilitate and provide added value to their maritime and land-based customers by pushing forward the digitalisation of a whole supply chains.

It goes without saying: 2021 is about to be a busy year for ESPO. Given the wide range and diversity of activities of European seaports, we will be following very closely the transport, energy and trade policies.

On behalf of our members and the secretariat, I would like to thank the Commission, the Parliament, the Council and all the organisations and their representatives in Brussels for the fruitful exchanges, the listening ear and the open dialogue, especially during this very challenging year.

We look forward to exchanging views with all of you and explain further how ports are functioning today and which challenges they are facing. We are ready to continue the reflection with the Commission on how best to achieve the EU ambitions set out over the past year and to help defining what policy is needed for ports to empower them to contribute as best as possible to achieve a smart, sustainable and resilient transport system as part of a stronger Europe.

Allow me finally to wish all of you, your families and loved ones, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Let’s hope we can all meet soon again in the New Year!

Annaleena Mäkilä,
ESPO Chair

Source: ESBO

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