Addressing government officials and global shipping stakeholders, Valean referred to Greece’s leading role past and present in shaping the global shipping industry.
She went on to refer to “a thriving maritime cluster of shipping companies, shipyards for testing, construction, and repair, marine equipment manufacturers, digital service providers, world-leading classification societies, and ship management companies” which are based in Greece and which the EU is benefitting from.
Valean also referred to challenges impacting the sector’s efficiency, including changing consumption patterns as a result of the pandemic, employee availability, crew changes, increasing congestion at ports and across the transport network and lastly the Russia-Ukraine war that is impacting the shipping sector and global supply chains.
According to Valean, maritime trade saw a 3.8 percent decline overall in 2020 thanks to “the men and women who continued to head out to sea, delivering food, medicines, and everyday goods throughout the pandemic”.
The commissioner underlined the importance of cutting emissions, which she said requires “shipowners and operators to start making choices, we need to test solutions and to use what is already available, including sustainable biofuels and LNG. And as the transition will take many years, we need to start now”.
Valean noted that the European Commission has and will continue to support decarbonization efforts. “Between 2014 and 2020, we supported 185 maritime projects through the Connecting Europe Facility, with a total of 1.64 billion euros. This included 14 Greek projects.”
Greece also tapped into 30 million euros under the European Fund for Strategic Investments for the construction of a new liquefied natural gas bunkering vessel, based at Piraeus port and participated in the Commission-funded Horizon 2020 E-Ferry project, the world’s first 100 percent battery-electric ferry, ‘Ellen’, powered by the world’s largest battery.
Lastly, she called on Greece to participate in the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes initiative, which is aimed at helping Ukraine get 5 million tons of grain out of its territory.
PM: Greek shipping industry accounts for 7% of GDP
Speaking during the event, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the shipping industry accounted for 7 percent of the country’s GDP and supported 200,000 jobs.
He also referred to a letter he sent to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen in which he is requesting that shipping be made a European priority so that the focus can be on:
– intensifying research and development of technologies and alternative fuels that will be compatible with the environment, safe for ships, and sustainable for the economy;
– revising EU laws in order to ensure fair play in transportation;
– ensuring the fair distribution of revenue from the European emissions trading scheme among member states;
– and implementing the ‘polluter pays’ mechanism holding operators accountable and not shipowners.