October 15 - A group of ports in northwest Europe have called for an open dialogue with the European Commission about the allocation of future funding, rather than 'publishing more paper'.

The group, which includes the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Hamburg, Bremen/Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Groningen Seaports and Moerdijk says that they are committed to "strengthening market-proven and existing infrastructures and that a clear focus on economically underpinned European added value should prevail over considerations related to geopolitics or cohesion policy when spending EU funds".

They say that the TEN-T days in Brussels last week kicked-off the first funding phase of the Connecting Europe Facility and focused minds on the allocation of funds.

The group notes that ESPON (European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion) published a draft report on transport trends and scenarios in 2014. The leading institute for this report is MCRIT, a Spanish Research bureau participating in the European Research Framework Programme. This report suggests a European investment policy to interlink second-tier cities and to enhance Mediterranean port infrastructure in order to facilitate container flows between Europe and Asia. The report further states that this would save time, euros, emissions and contaminants and alleviates congestion.

In a strongly worded statement, the North West European Ports comment that they hold the contrary position and add that the ESPON findings clearly ignore some basic socio-economic facts, dominant economic trends, commercial consolidation and technology in new generation of shipbuilding and port efficiency.

They point to the research conducted in 2011 by the independent research agency NEA that concludes that the northern seaports offer the most efficient route for container transport into a large part of the central European hinterland. Seven ports located in the North of Europe have four times the container throughput of the principal eleven ports competing along the Southern coastline of Europe. The analysis indicates that the distribution patterns underlying these shares is efficient, and is explained by a persistent combination of economic and geographical factors. The NEA analysis was verified by the Institute of Transport and Maritime Management in Antwerp.

The statement adds that an investment policy focussing on peripheral ports will therefore result in insufficient return on public investments. Furthermore, this approach undermines the goals of the European White Paper on Transport (2011). Mistakes made in the past in other industries should result in lessons learned, instead of being transposed to the freight sector.