Strategic Priorities

Internal Market

Engage with EU regulators to cement the maritime aspect of the internal market through borderless intra-EU short-sea shipping.

Intra-EU Short Sea Shipping has the potential to further cement the Single Market and facilitate the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

Short Sea Shipping is a sustainable form of transport that carries goods and people across Europe and to its closest neighbours. It has the potential to further cement the Single Market and facilitate the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

Yet more can be done to increase its share. Despite being a sustainable solution, Short Sea Shipping only moves 32% of goods within the EU, compared for example to road transport (49%).

Important work on reducing the administrative burden facing shipping is being carried out by the European Maritime Single Window environment initiative, much welcomed by EU shipowners. The Short Sea Sector in particular, due to its frequent port calls within the EU and for every port call fulfil different administrative requirements, will benefit greatly from the simplification and harmonisation of reporting. The EU shipping sector, fully committed to make the initiative work and reach its objectives, calls upon the European Commission, Member States and all stakeholders involved stakeholders to make speedy progress. The sector also flags the need to align the initiative with the digitalisation exercises in the customs domain.

Unfortunately, shipping is confronted with customs procedures from the moment the ship leaves the territorial waters of a Member State. When calling the next Member State, customs procedures come into play. By contrast, a truck crossing the land border between Member States does not have to face any customs procedure. Modern means of surveillance and the like can very well track and trace vessels or cargoes to ensure they have not entered non-EU customs territories.

The efficiency of the short sea leg is part of the overall efficiency of the logistics chain. To improve the overall multimodal performance and create real maritime waterways, the efficiency of all partners and the entire infrastructure network must be looked at, such as port operations, hinterland connections and the implementation of the TEN-T priorities.


To seize the potential of the internal market, ECSA is keen to work with the regulators to:

  • complete the internal market for shipping: other modes already benefit from the absence of customs checks when crossing internal borders within the EU
  • fully and rapidly harmonise and digitalise the reporting of ship formalities when entering or leaving EU ports
  • work towards the digitalisation of key documents including bill of lading
  • complete the TEN-T network and eliminate bottlenecks. A truly multimodal transport sector in which Short Sea Shipping plays an important part can only be achieved through safe, efficient and connected infrastructure
  • identify and implement possibilities to increase the efficiency of logistical chains especially in ports