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Towards a European maritime transport space without barriers

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Towards a European maritime transport space without barriers

This communication proposes the creation of a maritime transport space without barriers in the European Union (EU) designed to harmonise and simplify administrative procedures in short sea shipping. This would improve the efficiency and competitiveness of intra-EU maritime transport and make the procedures for maritime transport as simple as those for other modes of transport.


Communication and action plan of 21 January 2009 with a view to establishing a European maritime transport space without barriers [COM (2009) 10 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Maritime transport must comply with complex administrative procedures, even when it relates only to transport between European Union (EU) ports and when the cargo consists only of goods in free circulation in the EU. These procedures result in costs and delays, reducing the competitiveness of maritime transport compared with other modes of transport which benefit more from the internal market.

Among the different ways of transporting goods, Short Sea Shipping has economic and environmental advantages. Shipping is a comparatively safe mode of transport, with much lower infrastructure costs than for land transport, and the long European coastline is favourable to the development of Short Sea Sshipping. It should therefore be promoted in order to meet growing transport demand and thus enable the sustainable and safe transport of goods.

In the Communication "Keep Europe Moving - Sustainable mobility for our continent", the Commission considered it necessary to remove the obstacles affecting intra-EU maritime transport and therefore announced the creation of a European maritime transport space without barriers. This communication proposes an action plan containing short and medium term measures as well as recommendations to the EU countries. The action plan aims extend the internal market to intra-EU maritime transport by eliminating or simplifying administrative procedures.

Action plan

In order to simplify the administrative formalities applicable to intra-EU maritime transport, the Commission proposes to:

  • simplify customs formalities for vessels transporting goods between EU ports by introducing a presumption that goods on board vessels sailing between EU ports have the customs status of EU goods, through an amendment to the Regulation laying down certain provisions on applying the Community Customs Code;
  • draw up guidelines including best practice from specific ports in order that checks on live animals and animal products arriving at EU points of entry are faster and more efficient whilst safe-guarding public health;
  • adopt Directive 2010/65/EU  simplifying port reporting formalities. This directive will simplify administrative procedures through the general use of electronic means for the transmission of information and the rationalisation of reporting formalities with forms set up at international level through the “International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) FAL Convention”;
  • simplify administrative procedures for vessels sailing between EU ports, but having a call in a non-EU country or a free zone;
  • make electronic data transmission more efficient by creating “e-maritime” systems, as announced by the Commission in its White Paper on Transport Policy. These systems must be compatible with the electronic customs systems (“e-Customs”) introduced by Decision 70/2008/EC and will ease administrative and customs procedures in ports. Furthermore, the different networks for sharing information on maritime traffic between EU countries must be integrated at European level;
  • establish “national administrative single windows ” for port formalities by 1 June 2015. These systems will be interoperable, accessible and compatible with the SafeSeaNet system;
  • rationalise the regulations applicable to the intermodal transport of dangerous goods, where maritime and land regulations overlap.

Recommendations to EU countries

The Commission recommends that EU countries coordinate administrative inspections on board vessels and in ports. This would contribute towards reducing turnaround times for vessels at the quayside whilst maintaining the quality of inspections. Furthermore, EU countries are encouraged to assess the feasibility of using a common language or English to improve communication between port personnel and vessels’ crews. The Commission also recommends that EU countries create a regulatory framework to facilitate “pilot exemption certificates” and, if possible, dedicate specific area in ports for intra-EU transport.


The creation of a European maritime transport space without barriers forms part of a EU strategy aimed at fostering the development of Motorways of the Sea and short sea shipping services, which also includes the Marco Polo II Programme and the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), amongst other measures.

Last updated: 20.01.2011