Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Programme for the promotion of short sea shipping

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.

This summary is archived.
Languages and formats available
HTML html ES html DA html DE html EL html EN html FR html IT html NL html PT html FI html SV
Multilingual display
Miscellaneous information
  • Archived: true

Programme for the promotion of short sea shipping

This communication sets out a programme for the promotion of short sea shipping within the European Union (EU), consisting of legislative, technical and operational actions.


Communication from the Commission: Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping [COM(2003) 155 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The White Paper on European transport policy for 2010 highlights the role that short sea shipping can play in curbing the growth of heavy goods vehicle traffic, rebalancing the modal split and bypassing land bottlenecks. The development of short sea shipping can also help to reduce the growth of road transport, restore the balance between modes of transport, bypass bottlenecks and contribute to sustainable development and safety.

The Commission's programme contains a set of 14 actions subdivided into measures, and mentions the actors responsible and the timetable (2003-2010) for each measure. The programme describes legislative, technical and operational initiatives which are aimed at developing short sea shipping at EU, national, regional and industry levels.

The legislative actions consist of:

  • implementation of the Directive on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of EU countries – this directive simplifies the administrative procedures applied to maritime transport by requiring EU countries to recognise the standard International Maritime Organisation (IMO) FAL forms which make it possible to obtain all the necessary information regarding a ship’s arrival and departure in document form. This directive on reporting formalities has now been replaced by Directive 2010/65/EU which establishes a standard electronic transmission of data;
  • implementation of the Marco Polo programme – the Marco Polo and Marco Polo II programme, with an average annual budget of €18.75 million, is aimed at shifting 12 billion tonne-kilometres a year of road freight to short sea shipping, rail and inland waterways;
  • standardisation and harmonisation of intermodal loading units – the multitude of different configurations of intermodal loading units (containers and swap-bodies) creates delays when moving from one mode of transport to another;
  • development of 'motorways of the sea' – motorways of the sea should make it possible to bypass land bottlenecks in Europe as part of comprehensive door-to-door logistics chains, by offering efficient, regular and frequent services that can compete with road, particularly in terms of transit time and price;
  • improvement of the environmental performance of short sea shipping – maritime transport is, in general, less harmful to the environment per tonne or passenger carried. A modal shift to short sea shipping could, for example, contribute to fulfilling the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol;

The technical actions consist of:

  • a guide to customs procedures for short sea shipping – the Commission has published a guide to customs procedures for short sea shipping which has a dual purpose: firstly, to explain the customs rules, indicating opportunities for using simplified procedures (the basis for the second objective) and, secondly, to identify specific needs for further simplification;
  • identification and elimination of obstacles to making short sea shipping more successful – since 1999 the Commission has been making a list of the factors hampering the development of short sea shipping. These obstacles can be classified into five categories: its old-fashioned image, its complex administrative procedures, the lack of efficiency at ports, inconsistency in the application of rules and procedures among EU countries and the fact that it is not integrated into the intermodal logistics chain;
  • alignment of the national application and computerisation of EU customs procedures – the 'eCustoms' initiative is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the procedures involved in declaring cargo. One of the first tasks in this initiative is to implement the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), which will replace the paperwork required by the Single Administrative Document (SAD) procedure, in some 3 000 customs offices in 22 countries;
  • research and technological development – the objectives of this research are to improve the quality, safety, security and environmental performance of maritime transport. A thematic network for short sea shipping has been established within the framework of the Sixth Framework Programme, to carry out research directly related to short sea shipping.

The operational actions consist of:

  • One-Stop Administrative Shops in ports – aimed at simplifying the formalities relating to the arrival, departure and clearance of ships. A ‘one-stop shop’ limits the number of administrative authorities boarding and checking every ship, as well as offering port users a single contact point or help-desk for administrative formalities;
  • ensuring the vital role of Short Sea Shipping Focal Points – it is necessary to ensure continuous cooperation between the focal points and the Commission by organising regular meetings and also to ensure a continuous flow of information via the internet-based tool 'CIRCA' (Communication and Information Resource Centre Administrator). The accession countries also need to be involved in this work in order to raise their awareness of the importance of short sea shipping;
  • maintaining the efficient operation and guidance of Short Sea Promotion Centres – these centres are driven by business interests and offer a practical tool to promote short sea shipping at a national level. The national centres are presently being integrated into the European Short Sea Network (ESN) which provides a common tool for the promotion of short sea shipping in Europe. The aim of this network is to exchange information and best practices and also to provide practical advice covering the various stages of a short-sea journey;
  • promoting the image of short sea shipping as a successful transport alternative – short sea shipping needs to acquire a more modern, dynamic image by highlighting its current potential, i.e. its speed, reliability, flexibility, regularity and high degree of cargo safety;
  • collection of statistical information – EU statistics on short sea shipping trade are not sufficiently detailed. The objective is to collect information on short sea shipping from the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) until the directive on maritime statistics provides sufficient information to enable comparisons to be made.

Last updated: 05.09.2011