Streamlining existing customs procedures at ports in the European Union and separating EU goods from non-EU cargo for ships moving beyond the continent are two ways the European Commission hopes to improve shipping in Europe.
In a Brussels press conference, Siim Kallas, vice president of the European Commission, outlined these changes to ease customs formalities in ports and, as a knock-on effect, shift EU transit cargo from the over-used roadways to under-utilized sea lanes. Currently, a third of all freight traveling in the European Union is transited on ocean vessels, but half of all freight is carried on the roadways.
“Industry complains that they are forced to send goods by road, because a heavy administrative burden causes long delays in ports and makes shipping unattractive,” Kallas said. “Ships can sometimes wait for hours or even days in ports for customs clearance. We need to lighten this load.”
Kallas thinks these two changes will be a big step toward putting the maritime industry on the same level with other forms of transportation. There’s no reason, he explained, that a ship moving from Antwerp to Rotterdam would need the same customs clearances as goods coming into the country from China.
“These customs measures are complementary and will further improve the efficiency of services Europe's ports,” Kallas said. “Today, we are taking another step to making barriers to free movement of goods a thing of the past for shipping too.”
In May, the European Commission proposed a ports policy review, pledging to investigate port operations at 319 of the 1,200 ports in the European Union. The issue stems from the fact that 74 percent of exports and imports travel via the sea, but one-fifth of those goods transition through three ports. The proposals would focus on spreading out the goods more evenly. - Jon Ross