Short Sea Shipping (SSS) has been defined by the European Commission (1999): ‘the movement of cargo and passengers by sea between ports situated in geographical Europe or between those ports and ports situated in non-European countries having a coastline on the enclosed seas bordering Europe. Short Sea Shipping includes domestic and international maritime transport, including feeder services, along the coast and to and from the islands, rivers and lakes. The concept of Short Sea Shipping also extends to maritime transport between the Member States of the Union and Norway and Iceland and other States on the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean’.

The European Commission has also identified two main SSS regions in Europe: a first region which includes ports located in the North Sea and Baltic Sea; a second region includes the Mediterranean and Black Sea ports. To the first region belong all the main northern European ports, in particular those of the so called ‘northern range’: ports from Le Havre to Hamburg. The second region instead includes Mediterranean and black Sea ports.

Motorwys of the Sea – the maritime dimension of the Trans-European Transport Network

The Motorways of the Sea represent the waterborne dimension of the TEN-T network. Its programme is funded by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). In other words, funding allocated to projects under the Motorways of the Sea funding programme support maritime industry stakeholders (ports, ship and logistics operators, maritime suppliers and service providers, and public administrations) in implementing projects that seek to develop maritime transport and maintain a viable EU maritime sector. This includes projects looking at improving connectivity between core and comprehensive ports of the TEN-T network and land-based core network corridors, optimising cargo flows, and improving the environmental performance of the sector. Through these projects, MoS also seeks to support projects bridging access to the various European sea basins.

The legal basis for the MoS funding programme is contained in Article 21 of the TEN-T Regulation (EU) 1315/2013, where it is established that MoS, inter alia:

(1)… shall contribute towards the achievement of a European maritime transport space without barriers. They shall consist of short-sea shipping routes, ports, associated maritime infrastructure and equipment, and facilities as well as simplified administrative formalities enabling short-sea shipping or sea-river services to operate between at least two ports, including hinterland connections (…),

(3) Projects of common interest (…) may also include activities that have wider benefits and are not linked to specific ports, such as services and actions to support the mobility of persons and goods, activities for improving environmental performance (…). Under the current TEN-T Regulation, two main types of projects can receive funding under Motorways of the Sea:

o projects to support new or upgraded maritime links, i.e. a serviced route between two core ports or between one core and one comprehensive ports;

o projects with wider benefits, i.e. projects and studies not linked to a specific maritime link that benefit the wider maritime community.

In 2018, the 335 ports of the TEN-T core and comprehensive networks handled 3.8 billion tonnes of cargo (see Table 1). Almost three quarters of this volume were handled in the 84 core network corridor (CNC) ports.

Six major sea basins can be distinguished in Europe: the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Western and the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Black Sea. These sea basins are all characterised by a more intensive exchange within than between basins, though they are, of course, interconnected among each other. In addition, there are maritime ports in the EU’s outermost regions (e.g. Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion Island and French Guiana). Out of the total 3.8 billion tonnes handled in 2018, almost two thirds were related to short sea traffic. Short sea shipping (including feeder traffic) had a particularly high share in the Baltic Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

The largest volume of cargo is handled in the North Sea basin. Its 20 CNC ports handle 1.4 billion tonnes per year, equal to more than one-third of the total EU maritime traffic. It is followed by the Western Mediterranean (around 500 million tonnes) and the Baltic Sea (around 350 million tonnes). The Atlantic basin has the largest volume handled in core ports which are not part of the core network corridors. Taken together, all Atlantic core ports actually handled around 360 million tonnes.

The Eastern Mediterranean (around 250 million tonnes) and the Black Sea (around 60 million tonnes) are the regions with the smallest absolute volumes, but they have also been the fastest- growing basins with 3.4% and 3.1% average annual growth between 2010 and 2018, respectively. During the same period, the EU average was 1.9%.2

Five core network corridors start/end in the Western Mediterranean basin. Four corridors (from East to West: Atlantic, North Sea-Mediterranean, Rhine-Alpine, and Scandinavian-Mediterranean) are North-South corridors linking  the different ports of the Western Mediterranean with the European hinterland. The Mediterranean CNC is an exemption: it stretches from the Strait of Gibraltar along the Mediterranean coast to North Italy and on through Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary to the Ukraine.

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Figure . Core Network Corridor ports and regular ro-ro services in the Western Mediterranean, 2018, Source: ISL, 20193

The various Ro-Ro connections in the Western Mediterranean CNC ports prolong the NorthSouth corridors to North Africa. There is hence an extensive exchange between the  corridors and Motorways of the Sea. The port of Algeciras provides the shortest sea distance and high-frequency services to/from Morocco. Valencia, Barcelona, Marseille and Genoa provide numerous long- distance  services  to  Morocco,  Algeria  and  Tunisia.  Malta  –  the  southernmost  tip  of  the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor – is connected to the continent via Italian ports. In addition, there are East-West connections between Italy and Spain, a direct alternative to land-based transport.

There are fifteen CNC ports in the Western Mediterranean handling more than 500 million tonnes per year – the second-largest volume after the North Sea. There are five ports handling more than 50 million tonnes: Algeciras, Marseille, Valencia, Barcelona, and Genoa.

Table . Maritime cargo traffic of CNC ports in the Western Mediterranean by cargo type, 2018, Source: ISL based on Eurostat, 2019

The share of container traffic is higher than in any other port range, reaching 42% on average in the basin. This is partly due to the large transhipment hubs (Algeciras, Gioia Tauro and Valencia), but also due to a high share of containers in regional hinterland traffic. The share of dry bulk, by contrast, is the lowest of all European basins.

Structure of maritime traffic in Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea

The Eastern Mediterranean ports hosts five different core network corridors, three of which concern ports in the Adriatic Sea: Scandinavian-Mediterranean, Baltic-Adriatic and Mediterranean. The Adriatic has a dense network of ro-ro services, connecting the East coast of Italy with Croatia and with neighbouring Montenegro and Albania. In addition, there are various services connecting the Adriatic CNC ports with Greece and onwards to Turkey. For cargo coming from Western Europe, they provide an alternative to the landbased Orient-East Med  Corridor for cargo to Greece.

Figure . Core Network Corridor ports and regular ro-ro services in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, 2018, Source: ISL, 2019

The Orient-East Med Corridor itself connects Central Europe with Greece and on to Cyprus(connected to the EU with container services, among others to/from Piraeus andThessaloniki). Finally, the Rhine-Danube Corridor links the Romanian ports of Constanta and Galati with Central and Western Europe. The Danube is already intensively used forbulk transport while container transport only plays a minor role. The seventeen ports of the basin handled roughly

300 million tonnes in 2018 – less thanthe port of Rotterdam alone. There are nine ports with an annual maritime traffic of morethan ten million tonnes, the largest ones being Trieste, Piraeus and Constanta (see Table6). Almost half of the basin’s traffic is handled in the Northern Adriatic ports.

With regard to cargo types, the region stands out with a comparatively high share of dry bulk. The port of Constanta is the largest player in this segment with around 25 milliontonnes handled in 2018. Ro-Ro traffic is also slightly above average, Trieste and Piraeusbeing the major players and another eleven ports handling ro-ro traffic in the basin.

Table . Maritime cargo traffic of CNC ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea by cargo type, 2018, Source: ISL based on Eurostat, 2019

The competition in ShortSea Shipping issues (SSS)  have arisen with respect to the unbalanced modal split in the freight transport market, where road transport absorbs around half of the total market. The main goal is that by 2030 at least 30% of what is currently carried as road freight traffic over a distance of 300+ km will be shifted to other modes, such as rail or SSS and that this figure will be 50% by 2050. The total gross weight of goods transported as part of EU short sea shipping is estimated at almost

1.8 billion tonnes of goods in 2018, an increase of 4.4 % from the previous year. The overall increase in short sea shipping recorded by the main EU ports consolidated the gradual recovery seen in EU short sea shipping following the economic downturn in Europe in 2009 and reached a new high in 2018. Short sea shipping made up close to 59 % of the total sea transport of goods to and from the main EU ports in 2018, about the same as compared to 2017. However, the share of short sea shipping in total sea transport varies considerably between the reporting countries. The predominance of short sea shipping of goods over deep sea shipping was particularly pronounced in Finland, Malta, Cyprus, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Greece, Poland, Romania, Lithuania , as well as in the United Kingdom, the EFTA country Norway and the in the candidate countries Montenegro and Turkey, all with short sea shipping shares of 70 % or more in their main ports.

Short sea shipping by sea region and country

Italy was the major short sea shipping country in the EU in 2018, overtaking the Netherlands, with a share of almost 15 % of the total tonnages of EU short sea shipping in 2017 (313 million tones). The Netherlands followed with 294 million tonnes and then Spain with 213 million tonnes of short shipped goods recorded in their main ports(Figure 1) .

Poland recorded the largest relative increase in short sea shipping between 2017 and 2018 (+19.5 % ), followed by Lithuania (+15.9 % ), Greece and Romania (both +11.1 % ), Italy (+10.4 % ) and Finland (+10.1 % ). By contrast, Cyprus recorded the largest relative fall in short sea shipping of goods (-25.3 % ), followed by Malta (-18.0 % ) and Slovenia (-9.1 % ).

The short sea shipping of goods between main EU ports and ports located in the Mediterranean Sea came to more than 601 million tonnes in 2018. This amounted to 31 % of the total EU short sea shipping tonnages for all sea regions in 2018. The Mediterranean Sea was followed by the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, with shares of 23 % and 21 % of the total EU short shipping tonnages, respectively (Figure 2).

Short Sea Shipping by Type of Cargo

As in previous years, liquid bulk remained the dominant type of cargo in EU short sea shipping. At 734 million tonnes, liquid bulk accounted for 41 % of the total short sea shipping of goods to and from main EU ports in 2018. Liquid bulk was followed by dry bulk at 374 million tonnes (21 % ), containers at 288 million tonnes (16 % ) and roll on – roll off (Ro-Ro) units at 249 million tonnes (14 % ).

For liquid bulk, the Netherlands had the largest volume of short sea shipping in 2018 (153 million tonnes), followed by Italy (130 million tonnes). Netherlands also led the EU rankings for short sea shipping of dry bulk goods (53 million tonnes). Italy was the main country in terms of short sea shipping of goods in containers (60 million tonnes) and on Ro-Ro units (62 million tonnes)

Short sea shipping of liquid bulk goods was dominant in all sea regions in 2018, even though the composition of the short sea shipping cargo varies among the sea regions. While liquid bulk goods accounted  for  more  than  55 %  of  total  short  sea  shipping  of  goods  in  the  Black  Sea,  the comparable figure for the Atlantic Ocean was almost one third of the total. By contrast, the share of dry bulk goods in the short sea shipping of each sea region is more evenly distributed, with a range from 17 % in the Mediterranean Sea to 34 % in the Black Sea (Figure 5).

Top EU Ports in Short Sea Shipping

The top 20 ports accounted for more than 40 % of the total short sea shipped goods handled in the main EU ports in 2018. Rotterdam remained the largest EU port for short sea shipping, hand

ling a total of 207 million tonnes of short sea shipped goods in 2018. Among the other top three ports, Antwerpen handled 97 million tonnes of short shipped goods in 2018 and Hamburg handled 50 million tonnes (Table 1)

Horizon of Short Sea Shipping in Mediterranean

The dynamics of Mediterranean activities during centuries became even more evident during the last twenty years due to their high acceleration process related to the concept of globalization. This evidence has forced to adapt the old Mediterranean lingua franca to new trends in international trade and to focus on the current dominant political, economic, social and anthropological aspects to reach a positive and efficient maritime transport development. New contexts, such as unbalanced growing areas of influence on different sides of the Mediterranean, e-commerce, new inland logistic areas versus old big transport routes – such as Gibraltar and Suez, size and scale of seaports, competencies and alliances, short sea shipping, new security rules or loss of a permanent gravity centre of any harbour, made such a redefinition mandatory to think of Mediterranean seaports without any ethnocentric bias.

The competition to keep up with rising volumes and bigger ships commands more port investments. The ports of the Mediterranean are varied in their utilization. Ports like the Spanish ports of Valencia and Algeciras, the Tangier-Med in Morocco, Malta’s Marsaxlokk along with the Egyptian ports like Damietta, Port Said and Alexandria are transhipment hubs not only for freight moving throughout the greater Mediterranean region but act as a connector to ports as distant as the Americas or the Far East. Other ports like Genoa or Marseille serve their own industrial “catchment” regions and connect to Northern European markets.

The analysis of the relationships between the evolution of the volume of goods –income and outcome–, change in types of merchandise and growth or decline of the transport infrastructures, is a necessarily reductive approach of maritime transport development around the Mediterranean, and prevents from understanding the huge complexity lying behind all these numbers.  

The mutual needs of the different economies around the Mediterranean have changed the protecting view of the economy trading rules between European Union Countries and Maghreb Countries or Middle East economies, in a world highly interconnected where interdependence is necessary to maintain growth. The present world economic crisis is a perfect example of the way one region of the world can affect another, and of the different ways by which these regions are affected.

In the Mediterranean, the economy has permanently relocated activities, moved investments into developed or safe countries, while trade tried to promote open policies, and liberation of markets, with the constant intent of taking advantage from e-commerce. At the same time, the transport sector offered reduced traffic costs and more efficient services.

Mediterranean Sea Asymmetry

To understand the evolution of seaports in the Mediterranean Sea, and the trade generated along its shoreline, it is necessary to assess the difference between each area towards the whole system, and the present relevance of each for the future maritime transport development. Indeed, the importance of transport costs and infrastructure explains trade, access to markets, and increase in income per capita.

Regarding geographical asymmetries, we can easily appreciate the differences between three maritime entrances: the Gibraltar, Suez and Bosporus straits. Gibraltar is the natural and main gate to world from the Mediterranean sea, and so far new logistical technologies cannot avoid this evidence. Algeciras, on the Spanish side, and Tangier, on the Moroccan side, are competing to capture maritime transport and are investing to enlarge their transport facilities. As a consequence, small ports in the area compete for the rest of the trade, like Melilla and Beni-Anzar harbors, with very different strategies. Suez has become more relevant because of the energetic dependence of the European Community countries to the Middle East and Arab and Persian Gulf countries. Finally, Bosporus is the path to Black sea countries that unfortunately suffer from the weakness and instability of the Caucasian area, but the opportunity to communicate, through Turkey, to high potential growing areas.

The other main asymmetry is the economic basin behind each Mediterranean Sea shoreline. If we consider North African countries, except Egypt, they have a very short back economic basin. The Sahara Desert barrier, the very poor road and railway network connected with Central Africa, form an underdeveloped economic circle that do not attract the main maritime transport to stop in Algerian or Moroccan harbors. At the same time, the lack of development of harbor infrastructures prevents the economies of North and central African countries from growing. It is not only a North-South asymmetry, but also East-West. In the North-West area are located three or four countries: France, Italy, Spain and even Portugal, through the Spanish transport network. In this block, France has a clearly privileged position regarding its commerce with the heart of the European Union, through the port of Marseille and the logistic area around Lyon.  they are also politically working hard to cross the Pyrenees barrier thanks to a new effective railway transport. Italy, France and Spain are developing short sea shipping strategies, as promoted by the European Union. Their objective is to reduce transport by road, in order to limit the amount of fuel consumed by the EU, and the emission of greenhouse gases produced by the European road sector. Portuguese harbors, like Spanish economy, will benefit from the Spanish political inland-port logistic transport network connecting Mediterranean seaports,  Atlantic seaports  and  EU.  

In  the  Northeast sector,  Italy,  Slovenia,  Croatia,  Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey can form another block, where Italy, Greece and Turkey play the main role. In this sector, rules are different, since trade between Turkey and EU countries is likely to change soon, if Turkey becomes a EU country. The harbors located in this block have less weight and are also less developed, but are not less relevant than in the Northwest. Indeed, they have more potential growth and a more promising future, due to the economical changes in countries like Rumania, Bulgaria or Poland and to their connections with Ukraine, Byelorussia and Russia.

In the East, a group is formed by Syria, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Egypt. Here, the main aspect is not geographical, and besides these countries, the political situation also affects the  configuration  of  maritime  transport  development  and  trading  networks  of  the  whole Mediterranean sea.

Nevertheless, a common characteristic, if we compare the last two decades in the Mediterranean economies, is the rapid increase of the trading among all the regions. A representative example is the Autonomic Administration of Andalucía in the Southwest part of the Mediterranean. .

Network Inland Logistic Areas

The old features of main harbors consisted in intercontinental seaport networks, overseas traffic systems and shipping facilities and working efficient conditions with decreasing of handling cost, or less regulation.

A quick view of Mediterranean harbors showed that Algeciras (Spain), Giao Tauro (Italy), Pireo (Greece), Damietta (Egypt) and Haifa ,  where the biggest ones as hub harbors. Algeciras, handled less than 5 million TEUs, while North European harbors, like Rotterdam and Hamburg, handled around 10 million each one. Harbors like Barcelona, Valencia (Spain), Marseille (France), Genoa, La Spezia and Livorno (Italy) could be considered a gateway harbors.

Today, the network inland logistic areas changes the relation between Mediterranean seaports and their size, playing also a role in the transport trade. Being integrated in the logistic network has enabled harbors like Barcelona and Valencia to receive as many containers as the harbor of Algeciras. Or, for example, the small Spanish port of Motril wants to be the natural port of Madrid, located  600 km  inland,  instead  of  Granada,  its  administrative  capital,  only  40 km  inland. Connecting a Spanish Mediterranean harbor with the logistic area of Coslada dry port, in Madrid, means to be connected with the rest of the Iberian Coast and with an economic area that has been growing at the best rate in the EU during the last 20 years. The advantage comes from the fact of being related like a seaport and being in contact with the EU customs service agents.

Thanks to the use of new information and communication technologies, improvements in infrastructures, and with the advantage of the growing containerization rate, the same freight and insurance per ton of cargo provide today a quicker and more reliable service with less variation in delivery time than a decade ago.

In the meantime, Mediterranean harbors are growing towards the sea, due to the fact that the number of capacity container vessels bigger than 8,000 TEUS . The logistic network has grown inland and given some new opportunities to harbors located far from the main global transport lines. Mediterranean European harbors, especially Italian, French and Spanish, are henceforth connected with the main productivities areas of the EU, and Portuguese and North Spanish harbors with Mediterranean transport lines and thus with far East routes.

The development of short sea shipping is another related phenomenon. It is due to the congestion of land transport between Spain and France, through the Pyrenees, between Italy and the rest of Europe, and between Italy and Spain. The road transport from Spain to Europe is about 120 million tons per year, of which 94 millions tons cross through two points, Irun and La Junquera, versus

140 million tons by maritime transport. This unsustainable situation has developed an alternative, complementary and intermodal service. For example, the Ro-Ro service between Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia on the Spanish side, is connected at least twice a week to Genoa, Livorno, Civitaveccia, Salermo and Palermo. It takes between 12 and 24 hours . The near future will connect railway and seaports, as it is necessary to define a “European land bridge network” between North Seaports, Logistic Inland areas and Mediterranean Seaports and to prevent isolated areas from limiting the development of the whole system. Distant areas like Portugal or Greece will clearly benefit from this policy, but also the other countries that will be able to bring their products there.