The changing role of ports and European Ports’ Position

North Sea Port

The European Union is highly dependent on seaports, both for trade with the rest of the world and for trade between Member States. 74% of goods (in tonnes) imported and exported and 37% of intra-EU transport flows make use of seaports.

In addition to freight transport, about 400 million passengers embark and disembark in EU ports every year on average.

As crucial nodes in the supply chains, connecting maritime and hinterland transport of goods and passengers remains the core task of European seaports. However, they are increasingly taking up new responsibilities and are involved in new services. These related to sustainable energy production, transport and supply, circular economy, blue economy sectors, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, as well as industrial ecology, to name some.

As multimodal hubs, European ports play a critical role in facilitating sustainable transport alternatives and reducing road congestion.

As hubs of energy, seaports will be a partner in Europe’s energy transition through the transport, production, provision and storage of alternative fuels and off-shore activities.

 As hubs of industry, seaports directly bring togetherindustry, trade lanes and hinterland distribution, avoiding unnecessary additional transport.

As hubs of circular economy, European ports can facilitate a more sustainable and circular use of materials and waste between the different actors in the port area (both onshore and at sea) and enhance the circular use of waste and energy between port a city.

As hubs of employment, ports are a major employer for the region and beyond. They will thus play an important role in the EU’s recovery.

More than 90% of Europe’s seaports are part of or in close proximity to urban agglomerations. By developing towards multi-sectoral clusters and bringing different parts of the economy together, Europe’s urban seaports bring more and more added value to urban agglomerations and become instrumental in alleviating urban congestion and pollution. They provide cities a direct access to large volumes of cargo and can offer citizens sustainable transport connections.

Throughout the border closing and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, European seaports have remained operational and have been agile and flexible to adapt to the new circumstances, in order to ensure the supply of essential goods and medical equipment to Europe’s citizens. They have proven to be an essential and strategic part for a resilient European transport system and for functioning supply chains with third countries.

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