Economics of International Trade – SHIPPING – 1500 words

Report on Short Sea Shipping: The Marco Polo and Motorways of the Sea Initiatives


  1. This report pertains to the issue of Short-sea shipping in terms of the recent EU measures pertaining to the Marco Polo (MP) Programme and the Motorways of the Sea (MS) Programme. To further the aim of discussing the above the report below will discuss the salient features and the perceived impact of these programmes in EU shipping as well as the likelihood of these measures affecting the use of dry land routes and their means.


  1. The cornerstone of EU policy regarding maritime commerce has been the promotion of positive and efficient economic development. The encouragement of Short-sea shipping has only been one of these policies to boost efficiency with internal trade networking with in the EU (White Paper, 2001). The main impetus behind the Marco Polo Programme and the Motorways of the Sea programmes was the same as well, that is to promote energy security in terms of supply and stability. Since more than two-fifths of the current EU internal freight is short sea based and the intra-EU trade, transportation and travel depends heavily upon it for income and employment (White Paper 2001).


  1. Therefore the aim and ambit of the Marco Polo (MP) and MS programmes was to and has been till date, to bring about strict safety regulations which would prevent substandard shipping and transport to avoid serious maritime accidents, threats of piracy and serious financial loss through negligence. In line with its policy goals going up till 2018 both these initiatives, the MP and the MS are relevant to bringing economic security and a zeal for quality with in the short sea shipping service network with in the EU. The concept of ‘Motorways of the sea’  is based upon bringing about quick,efficient and secure routes and reduce environmental damage through logistical maritime solutions (Grammenos,2002).The perceived impact of MS is then fairly obvious to discern in a few years if this programme is implemented successfully and maintained in the next eight years. The term Motorways of the Sea (MS) is defined in more detail as  part of the TEN-T guidelines as one of the four ongoing initiatives aimed at promoting the EU maritime policy 2018 (Preparing the Future,2006).Priority Project 21 (MS,2006) names these as :


  • Motorway of the Baltic Sea (2010);
  • Motorway of the sea of western Europe (2010);
  • Motorway of the sea of south-east Europe (2010);
  • Motorway of the sea of south-west Europe (2010).


  1. Since maritime shipping routes are quicker and will be more efficient now it can be predicted that there will be a lesser reliance upon road transport in the coming years.Currently the road transport industry is facing rising costs in the face of congestion,pollution charges and such bottlenecks are a hinderance for the efficient functioning of the commercial sectors of the EU member states.


  1. The MS was largely a consequence of the Transport Policy for 2010 (Time to Decide) (White Paper,2001) which was issued in the hopes of exploiting the untapped potential of the Maritime shipping environment much hindered by the difficulties  faced by merchants hoping to ship goods using the Alps and Pyrenees routes as well as those along the Polish and German borders(ibid).The aim was to create a safe and secure “trans-euro” network for intra EU-trade which would certainly call for greater cross border communication between the states particulalry where the regulations regarding the Law of the Sea came into play(Grammenos,2002)


  1. The development of the trans-European networks (TENs) during the 1990’s and their relevant initiatives named the MS project as one of their property and adopted accordingly by the Essen European Council as a part of its 11 project resolve which was to end in 2010(EFT,2006). This TEN-T document which governed the legal framework for the setting up of  the MS projects emphasised in its Article 12 upon the upon the role of the member states in encourage the development of the same in the interests of a cleaner environment and less road traffic congestion(EFT,2006).


  1. The policy impetus being the MS then pertains to the fact that stronger emphasis will have to be made on technology ,cargo routing ,cooperation and concentration between the memberstates to bring about this economic revolution with in the EU (EFT,2006).This should certainly pave the way for lessor transport costs with in the EU should the objectives of sounder port terminalisation and immigration regulations be brought in and set up as a coherent maritime framework(MS,2006).


  1. In addition to the above the future development of the MS programme will allow the current EU members to conduct cheap trade through cheaper maritime transport plans extending  into the Eastern European EU candidates(ibid).Less road congestion would certainly facilitate the EU initiatives of bringing intermodality which should at some point support sustainable commercial development with in the EU in an environmentally friendly way (White Paper,2001).


  1. The current measures aimed at designing effective MS ensure that such routes avoid large natural barriers and to bring in effective engineered pathways through them so a more cost effective and time saving maritime regime can be built.Such short sea routing is aimed at benefiting both passenger and cargo transpor(REALISE,2005)t.It is hoped that one such intermodality with in the maritime based logistic chains running through all the major points with the European coastlines will mean that sustainable and reliable maritime transportation chains will have been created .The future of cargo transport and potentially of air and road transport will then possibly change.This is because the current insecurity and congestion faced by travellers and commercial organizations in routing cargo though air and land routes will be avoided through cheaper and more economic routes(EUROSIL,1997). Finally once market access with in the EU is improved there will be the potential integrating the rail and inland waterways in order to bring about added value to the MS vision(SAFEDOR,2008).




  1. It would also be expedient to mention before discussing the merits of the Marco Polo funding Programme (which was originally set up in the year 2001) (Regulation, 2006) that the MS initiatives cannot precede with success without effective expenditure into the research and development aspects of the project. Much R &D has been done to date via the MP funding programme particularly that relating to start up support for intermodal initiatives and maritime solutions to reduce the burden on the road transport routes with the already over congested Europe(EMSA,2010).The commercial viability of the MS has however been at the forfront of the planning and logistical concern of the MS programme.(Preparing the Future,2006)Some funding under this programme has been sought at the EU and national levels.It is possible to see that many such measures have produced programmes on the national level of the member states like the ParisMOU which is the most recent collaboration on Port control to further the ends of secure and reliable intra-EU transport(Preparing the Future,2006).


  1. The Marco Polo programme is actually split into two parts (Marco Polo I and Marco Polo II ) and is estimated at having an annual budget of over 19 million an investment which culminate in clearing almost 12 billiont-km worth of cargo across the intra-EU short sea borders(Communication from the Commission,2005).The programme was more ambitious and focused than its predecessor the PACT programme (The  Pilot Actions for Combined Transport) due to its wider impact on developing the intermodal scope of the EU Maritime infrastructure(MS,2006).


  1. The programme invites the commercial actors in the private sector to come forward to claim funding and support for the development of modal shifting and services in the non road freight market and knowledge sharing and technical cooperation for the development of Maritime services.The success of Marco I was followed by Marco Polo II which brought strong support for the development of the MS (Motorways of the Sea) programme (as discussed above).Marco II is more ambitious than Marco I and envisages a cost of 740 million Euros for the five year development period between (2007-2013)(MS,2006).In the past the use of land routes has caused much problem for the EU commercial sector and this can be well rememebered from the 1999 Mont Blanc tragedy and the Vintmille congestion problem which followed that.The development of alternative maritime routes will bring the much needed relief for the much over crowded land transport routes(MS.2006).


  1. Following the 2001 Marco Polo Funding initiative the EU Action plan for short sea shipping was realised and incorporated into the TEN-T by 2003 the stated aim of which was to bring about transnational border and security cooperation wih in the EU as well as more R&D at the national and international levels(Preparing the Future,2006).To further all these purposes then the MP programme till date is funding such research and development measures as those which pertain to the enhancement of better intermodiality with in transports at the EU level a well as providing strong support for the realisation of the MS.


  1. In conclusion the  most important contributions of the MS and MP programmes till date have  been the motivation of the EU trade actors at the local and EU levels to promote and support the development of EU transport.Once the business community starts experimenting with and preferring Maritime short sea cargo routing, more development will be encouraged in the sector motivated by the growth in demand and this innovation will follow to bring about further improvements in the same.It is hoped than better innovation will bring in better technical changes and the face of cargo transportation will have been significantly altered by the year 2018 as discussed above.











  1. Communication from the Commission (2005),“The development of Short Sea Shipping in Europe: prospects and challenges”, 5 July 1995
  2. Council Regulation (1995)(EC) No 2236/95 of 18 September 1995 laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of the trans-European networks, OJ L 228, 23.9.1995,
  3. EFT (2006) European Freight Transport– Modern Logistics Solution for Competitiveness and Sustainability, European Commission, DG TREN, 2006
  4. EUROSIL (1997): European strategic intermodal links, January 1997 – December 1999, 4th Framework Programme research project
  5. EMSA (2010)
  6. Grammenos, C (2002) Chapter 4,  “’Patterns of International Ocean Trade” in Handbook of Maritime Economics and Business, Informa UK Ltd. United Kingdom
  7. Motorway of the Sea- MS (2006) – Shifting freight off the European Road, European Commission, DG TREN, 2006
  8. Parismou (2010)
  9. Preparing the Future (2006) The motorways of the sea “Preparing the future” Ministerial Conference on the Motorway of the Sea, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 24 January 2006, conclusions adopted by the conference
  10. Regulation (2006) (EC) No 1692/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006 establishing the second Marco Polo Programme for the granting of Community financial assistance to improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system (Marco Polo II) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1382/2003.
  11. REALISE (2005): Regional actions for Loagical integration of shipping across Europe, October 2002 – September 2005, thematic network, 6th Framework Programme research project,
  12. SAFEDOR (2008), Feb 2005 – Jan 2008, 6th Framework Programme research project,
  13. White Paper (2001),“European Transport policy for 2010: time to decide”, 12 September 2001