Brussels, 20 April 2021

On the 20th of April, Baltic Ports Organization’s (BPO) had its annual debate at the European Parliament. The event was hosted by MEP Andris Ameriks, Vice-Chairman of the TRAN Committee. Multiple representatives of the European port sector gathered to discuss topics vital to the development of the industry, among them the European Green Deal and the revision of the TEN-T policy.

In his opening remarks, MEP Ameriks stressed the key role ports will play in the economic recovery process from COVID-19 and summarized the numerous challenges at hand, “the role of the European Union in the future is particularly important. On the one hand, we have set very ambitious plans for climate change and ecology in Europe, the TEN-T policy has been clarified, digital issues, and on the other hand, the COVID pandemic has affected all the work in this sector, just like any other sector. There is also a third party that has affected some of the Baltic ports. And that is geopolitics. European Union sanctions against Russia, events in Belarus have affected the work of several Baltic ports.”

andris ameriks

The European Green Deal, its goals and the green transition were one of the more intensely discussed topics and it was noticed that the implementation process leaves a number of question marks. The regulator needs to take into account the diversity of the port and shipping sectors and a one size fits all solution is simply not viable.

European ports are now facing a big concern regarding the regulator’s position on LNG as ports made significant investments in the infrastructure necessary to offer LNG as an alternative fuel in the past years. Nevertheless, the EU is now abandoning its support for this alternative fuel, thus frustrating European ports’ efforts.

Regarding fuels and energy, the Green Deal foresees ports becoming energy hubs. Ports have long played an important role in energy supply, but this will also create a significant challenge. For a great number of ports, the transition to green energy sources will lead to a significant loss in cargo, due to decreased and ultimately abandoned use of fossil fuels (crude oil, gas, coal). These losses will need to be compensated for and time will be required to prepare the infrastructure necessary for the use of alternative fuels.

Onshore power supply (OPS) was one of the topics that stood out when the participants turned their attention to ideas for sustainable and smart mobility. OPS technology has been mentioned in the European Green Deal as one of the viable solutions in support of the decarbonization process. Nevertheless, OPS implementation needs a smart approach, and it must be backed by an actual business case, as otherwise it could result in a lot of stranded assets. Large-scale implementation would also require additional, often difficult steps, such as the revision of electricity taxation in many countries.

Speakers also discussed financing as numerous issues were raised during the past Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding period and the extreme disproportion between the strategic role of ports and the amount of financing that was sent their way in comparison to other transport sectors. Further disproportions in the distribution of funds can be found within the port sector itself, with the comprehensive ports seeing far less support than their core counterparts.

Source: BOP