European ports funding plea

funding ESPO wants more more TEN-T funding to go to ports. Image: Pixabay

A European ports organisation has stated that ports have an important part to play in maritime sustainability development and called for more support from a key fund.

European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) told Port Strategy that it supported the current Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) guidelines and the funding received from 2014-17 but pointed out that ports only received 4% of the budget during this period.

"For the next period we would say, Given the central role of ports in the Ten-T network we would plead for a higher share of the money that would go to ports," stated Isabelle Ryckbost, secretary general of ESPO.

Port authorities and port managing bodies have a lot of projects with a ROI that is "low and slow" she said.

For the wider stakeholders, that is local economy, supply chain, national and international economy, there is a lot of ROI, but for the ports who invest the direct return is often very small and therefore extra funding is needed, she explained.

Framework has changed

Ms Ryckbost pointed out that ESPO did not agree with a 2016 European Court of Auditors report which criticised allocation of funding to Ten-T ports. She said the report assessed 43 projects, only two of which got Ten-T funding. All the other projects got regional or cohesion funding, allocated under a different set of rules. The projects assessed were also running before 2013, under the former legislatory framework.

“Since 2013 we have had a new framework and new TEN-T guidelines and corresponding financial regulation, the Connecting Europe Facility,” she said.

“The framework as it stands now has clear priorities, is clearly focused, is a lot stricter than the Ten-T framework in the past and it is in a lot more in accordance with the priorities of the European transport policy, than the regional or cohesional framework for funding which relies more on what the member states agree with,” Ms Ryckbost stated.

“The Ten-T network is a lot more centralised in its priorities, it has more of a clear agenda. Making conclusion on projects that didn’t get Ten-T funding is the wrong assessment.”

Since 2013 we have had a new framework and new TEN-T guidelines and corresponding financial regulation, the connecting Europe facility.

Changes needed

Last month, ESPO detailed its proposals, published in July, to the European Commission for its review of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy.

ESPO said that for European ports, the review must be used as an opportunity update the TEN-T network in relation to new market realities such as volume growth and scale increases; new societal challenges, including climate, air pollution, noise and  increasing urbanisation; new needs including digitalisation, automation and e-commerce; and as a consequence the changing role of European ports.

It considers these four areas equally important but points to decarbonisation and digitalisation as being particularly pressing.

“These are priority challenges that need to be addressed and have a direct impact on port infrastructure and investment,” said Ms Ryckbost.

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