Cities and regions are calling for an awareness of both the development opportunities for, and the threats to, European maritime industries. The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) urges support for the maritime industries to ensure the success of their environmental and energy transition, together with their digital transformation and industrial revolution, and for the sector's careers to be made attractive again. At its plenary session of 27 June 2019, the CoR adopted an opinion on A new European agenda to speed up the development of maritime industries, drawn up by Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council.
The European maritime technology sector plays an important role in terms of employment, directly providing more than 500 000 jobs. Each direct job in a European shipyard creates on average another seven jobs in the region.
Christophe Clergeau emphasises that "this own-initiative opinion restates the need for maritime ambitions to be at the heart of the next Commission's term, and for a new industrial policy roadmap for the maritime industries to be adopted rapidly, following the LeaderSHIP 2020 strategy. In this regard, the proposal to launch the "European Sea Tech" scheme, aimed at mobilising the regions to build European networks around value chains and the new challenges facing the maritime industries - networks that link regional innovation systems - is one of its key elements".
These challenges have to be met at a time when the maritime industries are also being exposed to new competition from Asia in the high-added-value vessel segments, where Europe is the current leader. The rapporteur argues that this competition, which aims to capture European technologies, is unfair as it is characterised by social and environmental dumping, and is extensively funded by public aid.
As Mr Clergeau points out, "the maritime industries must contribute to the environmental transition, namely with the renewable marine energy sector, but also create sustainable, high-quality jobs, especially in shipbuilding. This entails protecting Europe from the unfair competition that is tearing apart its industrial fabric".
The opinion also highlights the importance of supporting coastal communities, particularly on islands and in the outermost regions, and of investing in the transition and the development of traditional activities such as fishing and aquaculture.
The CoR further proposes:
- taking account of all maritime activities, historic and new, and responding to the critical cross-cutting challenges represented by environmental and digital transition, and the robotisation of industries;
- exploring the potential of emerging blue economy sectors and marine bioresources, in terms of both the myriad market applications and the new technologies through which they can be developed;
- introducing dedicated financing tools that factor in the risks inherent to the constraints of the marine environment and to the long investment cycle;
- full recognition of ports as platforms for the blue economy, a rapid transition by ports to clean energies and decarbonised maritime transport, as levers for the development of the maritime industry.
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