A European Approach to Foster the EU Waterborne Transport Sector

By Staff
4 Min Read

On 10 June, industriAll Europe, along with other relevant maritime stakeholders, participated in a roundtable meeting organised by the European Commission to further the dialogue that started on 27 September 2023 and culminated in a joint declaration on 13 March 2024, signed by 13 European associations representing the maritime industries.

Despite its significance, the maritime industry faces several challenges. European shipbuilders compete with counterparts in Asia, particularly in China and South Korea, where production costs are lower due to cheaper labour and government subsidies. Furthermore, digitalisation, automation and green technologies necessitate significant investment in research, development and training. 

The collective challenge is to build on the positive momentum generated by the energy transition and digitalisation drivers, seizing future opportunities while reinforcing global competitiveness, domestic industrial and infrastructural capabilities, and technological edge. 

In response to these challenges, the maritime stakeholders agreed and emphasised several key areas to support the maritime industry:

  • Competitiveness: There is a need for an equal global level playing field, a supportive and consistent regulatory framework, including alignment with IMO regulations, and a toolbox of funding and financing to continue the EU technological leadership.
  • Sustainability: This includes addressing the price gap and availability of fuels, adopting a holistic approach, and creating a supporting framework to stimulate investments and update technologies and fuels. There are significant investment needs and the need for de-risking, as well as funding and financial support with conditionalities.
  • Workers: A Just Transition framework is essential, along with upskilling and reskilling policies.
  • Research & Innovation (R&I): R&I should take into account the impact on jobs and skills, ensuring a zero-emission, digital, human-centred and resilient waterborne transport sector, and provide input to the development of standards.

The concept of a Just Transition is central to industriAll Europe. For the shipbuilding industry, this involves engaging workers, employers and policymakers in dialogue to address the impacts of industry changes, and developing strategies that protect jobs and ensure fair working conditions. Social dumping still happening in the EU, where poor working conditions are associated with lower wages and longer working hours. Social dialogue and workers’ participation need to be strengthened in order to cope with these situations. 

IndustriAll Europe is pushing for comprehensive training programmes aimed at equipping workers with the necessary skills, thus ensuring their employability in a rapidly evolving industry.

“We need more industry in Europe. To maintain a competitive maritime industry, we need investments with social conditionalities attached”, said Judith Kirton-Darling, industriAll Europe General Secretary.

“We stressed the need for reskilling and upskilling and advocated for a holistic maritime industrial strategy with a Just Transition dimension, and a social dimension focusing on workers”, she added.

Read the joint delcaration here

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