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Title: Ports: an engine for EU growth
Sectors of Transport: Transport, Maritime & inland waterways
Ports: an engine for EU growth

Ports: an engine for EU growth

In terms of trade, investment and jobs, ports are pivotal to the European Union (EU). Its strategy aims to prepare them for the challenges ahead: higher cargo volumes, larger container ships and the wide gap in performance between the least and most efficient.


Communication from the Commission: Ports: an engine for growth (COM(2013) 295 final of 23.5.2013 - not published in the Official Journal)


Importance of ports

The EU has over 1 200 ports spread along its more than 70 000 km of coastline. Each year, 74 % of goods traded with non-EU countries pass through ports, as well as 37 % of intra-EU freight traffic and 385 million passengers.

Ports play an important role in the EU economy in terms of jobs, providing an estimated 3 million direct (port and port-related industries) and indirect (logistics/supply chain) jobs in a broad range of sectors among the 22 member countries with coasts.


  • By 2030, cargo volumes handled in EU ports are expected to rise by 50 %. This means that new jobs will need to be created to handle the increased traffic.
  • Growing trend towards larger ships: some ships can carry 18 000 containers which is equivalent to a continuous line of trucks stretching from Rotterdam to Paris.
  • Structural performance levels vary widely: there is a concentration of activity in the most efficient ports because many do not have the necessary facilities or easy access. This results in congestion and longer journeys both on land and at sea leading to higher emissions.

Addressing the issues

To ensure that ports dynamise the EU’s economy in the coming decades, the strategy advocates actions to:

  • connect ports to the trans-European network: more integrated infrastructure planning, consistent investment strategies and EU funding will be provided under the new trans-European transport network (TEN-T) guidelines; the Connecting Europe Facility and the Structural Funds will aim to ensure ports are connected with their hinterland and the wider transport network;
  • attract investment and modernise port services: new EU rules are proposed to increase transparency in public sector funding, ensure a fair competition between ports and attract private investors. The proposal will reduce legal uncertainties for port operators by introducing common rules for an open and non-discriminatory access to the market of port services.

Constructive social dialogue in the ports sector, and the importance both of raising the environmental profile of ports and of innovation having a central role in the sector are also emphasised.

The strategy is accompanied by a proposal for a law designed to tackle the key issues related to the market access to port services and the financial transparency and autonomy of ports.


Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports (COM(2013) 296 final of 23.5.2013)

Last updated: 15.05.2014

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