The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) has proposed a two-step approach to the new EU Transport Strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic.
ESPO said that the current global health crisis would require more than a “business as usual” update.
EPSO said that, since the start of the crisis, Europe’s ports had been doing everything possible to ensure the continuity of their operations.
Ports had activated contingency plans to ensure that they remained fully operational. EPSO said that, more than ever, the ports had been demonstrating their role as essential and critical infrastructures, playing a crucial role in the supply of necessary goods.
However, at the moment it was still unclear how long the ongoing significant disruption of national economies and society was going to continue, how severe the continuing impact will be, and what efforts would be required to reach the “new normal”.
EPSO said that the real, tangible impact on the entire port sector would only become clear over coming months. “ESPO therefore believes that in the absence of any insight on the duration and impact of the current crisis, it is, at this moment, impossible to set the ground for a long-term EU Transport Strategy”.
“Europe’s first priority must now be to develop a restart and recovery plan which helps to overcome this crisis”, said EPSO.
In the absence of a vaccine or treatment, an essential part of the short-term recovery measures had to be focused on restarting economic activities, including transport, and societal behaviour, based on coexisting with Covid-19, said EPSO.
Measures would be necessary to limit the risks of spreading the virus. This would include developing plans that would enable a “1.5-metre economy and society”.
Existing policies and financial instruments for infrastructure projects in ports, in particular the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), should be strengthened, thus ensuring that the resilient port sector could rebound quickly after the crisis.
Advancing planned CEF calls could boost investment in ports, enabling them to play their role as engines of growth, EPSO said.
During this first phase, the impact of the crisis and the recovery measures on both the European and national budgets needed to be evaluated. This would provide a realistic picture of the available budget for implementing new ambitions and strategies.
The second phase, which would begin as soon as the crisis situation stabilized and the “new normal” could be perceived, would see a discussion starting on a new Transport Strategy. This would establish long-term goals, ambitions and initiatives for the European transport sector. This should integrate the consequences of and lessons learned from Covid-19.
“ESPO and its members are happy to start the reflection with all stakeholders and EU decision-makers in view of formulating clear answers to all these questions and setting the ground for a truly forward-looking sustainable, connected, efficient and resilient transport system,” the organization said.