April 6 ------ The European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) has welcomed the work done by the EU so far to support the shipping industry in dealing with COVID-19 but stressed that more sector-specific actions are needed to save the industry. For Europe to ensure the survival of its strategically important maritime industry, more concerted and targeted actions will be required, according to ECSA. The trade association, therefore, called on all the European institutions to swiftly adopt a targeted rescue and recovery plan for the maritime sector.
Currently, the European shipping industry is working hard to ensure goods, supplies and medical equipment continue to come into Europe and flow out of Europe. Yet shipping companies are facing increasing obstacles staying afloat, due to liquidity issues, decreasing sources of financing, amongst others. With the largest part of the industry being small and medium enterprises, shipping companies will need the support of national governments and the EU to mitigate any long-term repercussions from the pandemic. “European shipping has reached a breaking point,” Claes Berglund, ECSA’s President, said. “On the surface, trade continues to flow. Below the surface, our crews are being challenged enormously. Furthermore, financing really needs to be kept open for shipping companies in order for them to cope with immediate liquidity problems…Without the authorities and banks stepping in on this, many companies will not survive the crisis and Europe’s share of global shipping is going to plunge,” Berglund added.
As explained, one of the hardest-hit segments is passenger transport, which is vital for Europeans living on islands. As many of transportation companies are currently downsizing to sustain their business, these essential services may disappear, if nothing is done to save them, ECSA’s President believes. The ECSA board of directors noted that the trade association will continue to work with its social partner the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) in seeking Member States’ support to adopting a common, coordinated approach, so that rules and requirements are the same for all companies and the workers are afforded the necessary protections. Additionally, the board welcomed the support the maritime industry has received from the European Parliament and pledges of support from the different political groups. It welcomed in particular Renew Europe’s proposal for a rescue and recovery plan specific for the maritime sector, so as to support the different players in the European maritime cluster.
Following the announcement on the postponement of the international climate meeting COP26, the ECSA board of directors said it fully supports the commitment of the European Commission towards the European Green Deal but is also of the opinion that the first priority should be “the rescue and full recovery of the EU shipping industry. We should likewise not allow the European Green Deal to fail, due to the inability of our industry and our workers to contribute fully because of the current difficulties we are all experiencing from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Berglund pointed out.
The European shipping industry fully stands behind the European Commission’s ambition in the European Green Deal. To ensure that the goal is reached, the whole maritime industry needs substantial investment and funding from the EU and national governments. Judging from the current situation, it will not be realistic to assume that the industry is able to play its part, despite its full commitment to the cause, without first ensuring that companies can and must make full recovery, the trade association explained. “A coordinated approach by all member states and a maritime-specific rescue and recovery plan urgently need to be put in place for that to happen. The European Green Deal was formulated in the interest of the health of our economy and our people. For the deadline to be maintained at all costs without first considering the health of our economy and our people, will leave thousands of companies and workers behind,” he concluded.