Motorways of the Sea

‘Motorways of the Sea’ may be a term that you’ve heard in the maritime industry recently. Particularly with the expansion of the Port of Genoa. But what exactly does it entail?

What is it?

Motorways of the Sea (MoS) is a concept which was adopted by the European Union in the early 2000’s. Its aim is to improve freight transport links (including freight ferry movements) across Europe in a more sustainable manner, as opposed to relying entirely on road travel.

Where did it come from?

The MoS concept was first introduced in 2001 with the Transport White Paper, but was only fully implemented in 2010.

The scheme was dubbed ‘a real competitive alternative to land transport’ and it was subsequently decided that it should become part of the Trans-European Network (TEN-T). Funding was given for its development.

What does it aim to do?

The intention is to form more commercially efficient modes of transport. Thus, improving access to markets all throughout Europe and relieve some HGV and commercial vehicle pressure from Europe’s existing motorway systems.

Along with this, they hope to create a sustainable future by reducing the amount of truck and van emissions typically released with road travel.

The plans favour sea travel, along with rail and inland waterways when devising new route options.

Outlined in Article 12a of the TEN-T guidelines its three main objectives for the sea motorways are:

  1. Freight flow concentration on sea-based logistical routes
  2. Increasing cohesion
  3. Reducing road congestion through modal shift

Who does it affect?

The scheme encompasses options for countries throughout Europe and following its official formation, four platforms were developed.

  1. Motorway of the Baltic Sea (linking the Baltic Sea Member States with Member States in Central and Western Europe – including a route through the North Sea/Baltic Sea Canal)
  2. Motorway of the Sea of Western Europe (leading from Portugal and Spain via the Atlantic Arc to the North and Irish Sea)
  3. Motorway of the Sea of South-East Europe (connecting the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus)
  4. Motorway of the Sea of South Western Europe (leading from Western Europe, connecting Spain, France and Italy and joining up with the South Eastern Motorway of the Sea link to the Black Sea)

Who orchestrates it?

Per the terms of the 2001 Transport White Paper, a board of European Coordinators were brought in to facilitate dialogue and negotiations between the Member States, along with overseeing ongoing progress of the programme and making recommendations for the progress of the plans effectiveness.

Whilst the overall Commission defines the policy aspects including funding eligibility for proposals, the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) and the successor of the Trans-European Network Agency (TEN-TEA) manage the technical and financial implementation.

In 2006, five task forces were created to ensure coordination between the Member States, covering the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Mediterranean Sea and their respective areas.

Where are we up to?

The Motorways of the Sea plans are still ongoing.

The 2011 Transport White Paper ‘Roadmap for a single European Transport’ stressed anew the importance of the scheme.

Per the 2013 Ten-T Guidelines, MoS is defined as the maritime dimension of the Trans-European transport network which shall contribute towards the achievement of a European Maritime space without barriers.

Currently, the scheme’s main aims remain:

  1. Development of Maritime links between ports of the Comprehensive Network or between a singular port of the Comprehensive Network and a third-country port where links are deemed to be of strategic importance to the Union.
  2. Expansion of port facilities, freight terminals, logistic platforms and freight villages in association of the port and its operations for all counties involved.
  3. Progress for direct land and sea access.

The Motorways of the Sea initiative has proven to be extremely successful. Since its implementation it has shown an improvement to environmental quality, has created a ‘fresh food corridor’ where the shipping of food to Member Countries has become far more accessible for business and has enhanced overall safety on commercial ships all around European oceans.

29 May 2018

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