“From up there it all makes sense” commented European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc following a helicopter flight above the port of Antwerp in the context of a visit jointly organised yesterday by ECSA, Grimaldi Group, the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association and Antwerp Port Authority. This initiative, together with the European Shipping Week which it precedes, are part of a greater effort of the EU shipping industry to raise its profile and, more importantly, allow EU decision-makers to better understand and visualise the intricacies and sheer scale of this industry.
Ms Bulc and her cabinet, other high ranking DG Move officials as well as the Italian Ambassadors to the EU and Belgium, were given an on-site visit to the AET Grimaldi Lines Ro-Ro terminal. After a short introduction to the terminal’s activities, the visit continued on-board the “Grande Gabon” vessel of the Grimaldi fleet. The delegation was then invited to a lunch with European shipowners, held at the offices of the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association in the centre of town. The day was concluded by a brief introduction to the work of the renowned Antwerp harbour painter Eugeen Van Mieghem, whose museum is located in the offices of the Belgian shipowners.
The visit and the ensuing exchanges between Commission officials and industry representatives took place in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue and mutual understanding.
During the course of the visit Commissioner Bulc said: “Europe needs a top-quality shipping sector that can compete internationally, as it’s a key pillar of the European economy. The EU controls 40% of the world’s gross tonnage and more than 75% of EU trade is carried by sea. That is why today’s visit to the Port of Antwerp was of particular importance, as it marks my first meeting with the European shipping community and comes ahead of the European Shipping Week which will be held in Brussels 2-6 March. The European Shipping Week will be an excellent opportunity to promote competitiveness, sustainability and employment, through better regulation at EU level and supporting effective EU action promoting European interests internationally.”
She added that the European shipping industry has a real opportunity to increase its competitiveness by becoming greener, provided it focuses on innovation and technology, making special reference to alternative fuels and the need for digitalisation. The Commissioner also stated that she expects European shipowners to be pro-active in raising standards.
Thomas Rehder, ECSA President, said: “Ms Bulc has shown a great interest in our industry and I am convinced that today’s visit is but a first step in a long journey where industry and EU decision makers can engage in an extensive cooperation and benefit from a positive feedback loop. We look forward to establishing a relationship of trust and fruitful cooperation with the new Commissioner.”
During European Shipping Week additional excursions to Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge are organised on Thursday 5 March. See the events calendar for details.