Liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects put you at the forefront for developing sustainable usage of an environmentally friendly energy source that is also an economically interesting alternative to traditional shipping fuel. As such, it helps Europe to decrease its dependence on oil.
Europe needs a high-quality shipping sector which can compete successfully by merging high environmental standards and safety records with efficiency and competitive prices.
Maritime transport must also be properly inter-linked with other forms of transport – like road and rail – within a truly European single transport area.
While this may sound like squaring the circle, I believe that taking small concrete steps will get us there.
Your initiative on LNG is evidence that we are making progress.
We need to move more goods away from roads and onto trains and ships.
This is an ideal way to reduce air pollution, road congestion and the risk of accidents.
To do this, we need to make it as easy for a ship to move from one port to another as it is for a truck to cross from one Member State to another.
The Blue Belt initiative aims to achieve this by extending the single transport market to shipping services through the simplification of customs procedures.
As much as this project appears reasonable, it is unfortunately more complicated to turn into reality than we had thought.
It will now be for my successor to carry this project forward.
Making it more attractive to use ships within Europe also depends on cutting red tape and administrative complexity.
From mid-2015, new rules will ensure that ships need to report only once when they arrive in a port.
All the necessary information will be available in electronic form to all the relevant authorities.
While we see this as an important step forward, there will be more to come – because next year, we will look at ways to cut the administrative burden for shipping even further.
I also said that shipping needs to be better connected to the rest of the continent – since goods are rarely used or manufactured near the.
In this context, Europe’s 329 ports of “common interest” within the trans-European network play a major role.
Many of you here today represent ports and so you know best about the challenges they face. The Commission believes it to be particularly important to improve the conditions whereby ports can attract investments and promote better use of existing capacity.
This includes targeted financial support from the Connecting Europe Facility for ports and their connections to rail and inland waterways. For transport, the EU has reserved a total of 26 billion euros. This also includes providing legal certainty for investors, ensuring equal conditions of competition for ports competing across borders, and guaranteeing fair access to port services.
Let me come back to LNG for shipping. For several years now, the Commission has actively supported this promising new fuel for shipping. Many solid and quality projects in ports and with shipowners have received EU financial support via the TEN-T – including your own project.
However, market uptake of LNG has been too slow: a typical “chicken and egg problem”.
No bunkering facilities, therefore no investment in LNG-powered ships.
No ships needing LNG, therefore no incentive to develop LNG fuelling.
Europe urgently needs more fuelling stations and also to bring rules and technical standards into line, to give certainty to the sector and unlock private investment.
The Commission decided to do something about the situation. Early last year, I presented the Clean Power for transport initiative, which is now about to be finally adopted by the European Parliament and EU Member States.
I am very pleased that we will soon have a formal target for a comprehensive European network of LNG refuelling stations, by 2025 at the latest.
Much later than I wanted; much later that the sector needed [2020 general 0,5% of sulphur content of shipping fuels]. But this is nevertheless a strong and needed signal.
Together with all relevant stakeholders we are working in the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF) in order to finalise a comprehensive and harmonised framework for LNG as a maritime transport fuel.
To me, LNG is one example of how we can successfully turn constraints into opportunities, by setting ambitious goals and ensuring constant progress via good cooperation across the sector.