Increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of ports, improving the cooperation between ports and cities as well as revitalising port areas is crucial for the European economy and society. But with the geographical concentration of operations, small and medium-sized ports are losing their functions with a deterioration of linked urban areas. EU's local leaders look at how to regenerate port areas focusing on governance, investment attraction and sustainable urban development.
The European Committee of the Regions, EU's assembly of local and regional authorities, adopted on 8 February its opinion on the regeneration of port cities and port areas , led by Stanisław Szwabski (PL/EA), Member of Gdynia City Council.
Out of the 329 ports on the European territory, 104 were identified as core ports within the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T). These latter are the main gateways to the European economic area, with a fundamental importance for maintaining and improving the competitiveness of the EU economy.
Despite the overall growth in maritime transport, an increasing concentration of port operations is undermining the role of many European port cities, facing economic and urban decline. In this context, the Committee requests more EU support to diversify growth opportunities in deteriorated ports, attract new economic activities and generate positive spill-over locally.
A stable investment climate and continuous EU-funding for innovative projects and initiatives are determining to open up new perspective for port areas. The Committee calls therefore to intensify support for bottom-up initiatives of research and innovation to improve the port-city relations and improve the innovative capacity of the sector. A greater support is needed also for the upgrading of port cities and areas, i.e. under EU's cohesion policy and other sectoral policies that would act as a catalyst for economic, social and territorial development in the EU.
" The "Gdynia success story" – as the redevelopment of the shipyard was termed – is a good example showing the growth potential and complexity of relaunching port areas in Europe " said the rapporteur, recalling that: " When Poland joined the Union, government subsidies became 'unlawful state aid' and massive efforts were put in place to make the shipyard profitable, including privatisation. It did not work and, after 2009, individual parts of the Gdynia Shipyard were acquired by new owners and the whole area came under the Pomeranian Special Economic Zone. The Baltic Port of New Technologies (BPNT) was established later. road infrastructure and networks (energy, water, sewage, etc.) were modernised and new shared spaces were created where companies could successfully cooperate and trade. Businesses now enjoy organisational support from the management board of the Pomeranian Special Economic Zone, access to infrastructure, and tax benefits. Employment and production have risen quickly, with cooperative ties forming spontaneously, leading to an attractive market offering in terms of offshore production, wind energy installations, shipbuilding activity, steel constructions, etc. Companies of various sizes, but mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, are pooling their potential, creating synergies, higher productivity, lower costs – in sum, economic common sense ".
Looking at the next generation of EU policies for ports, local leaders ask the European Commission to pay more attention to the views of the various stakeholders in the maritime economy and of the local and regional authorities as well as to develop diversified approaches tailored on the specific needs of the different types of ports.
Pierluigi Boda (IT, EN)
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