PortEconomics co-director Peter de Langen has co-authored a study for the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), examining ‘The Infrastructure Investment needs and Financing Challenge of European Ports’, so as to answer these questions.

Among others, the study focuses on the diversity of port investments, make the case for investments in basic port infrastructures, explains how investment needs of EU ports are driven by external developments, and details the role of EU funding for port investments. On these bases, it discusses the past use of EU instruments by ports, and make suggestions for the right mix of funding instruments for port investments, the clarity on the relevance of EU added value in the evaluation and methods to assess EU added value, and call for further alignment of grant allocation processes with the port industry needs. The report, which has been submitted by ESPO as part of its contribution to the European Commission public consultation on EU funds in the area of strategic infrastructure, includes several recommendations based on the findings of the study. Peter de Langen will present the study at the ESPO conference to be held in Rotterdam on 31 May 2018.

The development of the Single European Market required the elimination of a range of barriers to trade. Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe’s seaports where the work to create a level playing pitch has been a project of decades. In recent years, however, there has been a range of inter-related EU policy initiatives which have largely created the level playing pitch in the port sector. As a result, seaports are now in the position to fully realise their potential and maximise their contribution to the prosperity of people and communities throughout the EU.

Central to this change has been the increased focus on ports as commercial entities with increased financial autonomy in most cases. However, this new perspective highlights a conundrum at the heart of port development plans. In many cases, the main benefits of port projects accrue to the wider community and economy rather than to the port authority itself. This is particularly true when ports invest in basic infrastructure to provide capacity for future growth. Beyond that, the requirement for ports to invest in basic infrastructure has been joined by a range of investment requirements as a result of wider societal imperatives particularly in the areas of environmental policy and energy policy. The challenge ports everywhere face now, is to implement projects which often are financially unattractive to the port authority and even less attractive to external investors but which are essential for wider societal and economic reasons.


Some ports are financially strong enough to finance such projects and accept the low financial returns. Other ports are challenged to implement projects which are essential but are entirely beyond their means. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is the essential means to resolve this conundrum. TEN-T policy recognises ports as engines for growth. Europe’s ports have the projects ready to meet TEN-T objectives. CEF is the facilitator. As CEF ll is being prepared, the experience and expertise of Europe’s ports has been harnessed in this study report by ESPO to provide Europe’s institutions with an informed viewpoint on the needs of ports and on how ports can contribute to the achievement of TEN-T and other EU policies. ESPO recognises that there are many demands on the EU budget at a time when the size of this budget is challenged by Brexit. But there are important choices to be made in how scarce resources are allocated.


ESPO contends that investment in Europe’s seaports is essential if critical policy objectives are to be met in a wide range of EU policy areas. If Europe’s seaports cannot make the investments that are needed, then key policy objectives in the areas of transport, energy and environment will be compromised. Nine key findings are presented in this report, which go beyond a simplistic request by ports for more funds, to inform the debate and discussion of the size and allocation of the budget for the second Connecting Europe Facility.