On Thursday 19th November 2020, European Tugowners Association’ 3rd Autumn Conference took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in spite of these difficult circumstances the event fulfilled the expectations of organizers and attendants. 81 participants representing the towage industry and its suppliers followed a quite rich debate on the pandemic´s impact on the sector and the future ahead. The discussions, brightly moderated by Steve Dougal, Century Marine Services, maintained a quite positive tone and proved that the towage and maritime sector have been able to adapt to this new reality, resisting as an essential industry that kept the EU economies running.
The event focused on the way towage and maritime companies adapted to the pandemic constraints (logistics, health and labour) and the lessons learnt during this period.
Vicente Boluda Ceballos, Vice -President of NAVIGATOR’s Member Boluda Corporación Marítima Executive gave a snapshot of the company´s measures taken to stay operative while protecting the safety and health of its employees. The corporation´s direction adapted to the changing circumstances by developing new crisis decision making groups that helped it to act with the flexibility and adaptability that these times demand.
Jorgen Bjerre, Deputy head of Unit DG Move European Commission outlined the new EU policy landscape triggered by the European Green Deal, which will require that transport emissions are cut by 90 % by 2050. Moreover Mr Bjerre described the many funding opportunities that the sector will have in order to adopt greener and smarter technologies and to adapt to the new EU requirements. This transition could be supported by Horizon Europe funds, the Connecting Europe Facility, the new Transport Recovery and Resilience Facility or even the Cohesion and Regional Development funds.
Lamia Kerdjoudj, Secretary General of Feport analysed the way European ports adapted to the crisis and its impact (drop in volumes up to 40%, an increase in blank sailings, etc.). Concerning the last policy initiatives affecting the sector, Ms Kerdjoudj called for funding mechanisms to support first movers and make innovation in green technologies more attractive. At the same time she also advocated more collaboration within the industry in order to develop a common vision for the next decades and highlighted the need for a review of the EU competition rules to ensure a level playing field within the internal market and outside the EU.
Danae Bezantakou, Navigator Shipping Consultants CEO concluded the Conference by highlighting the key role that the Greek maritime cluster plays as the EU leading shipping power and thus, a guarantor of the essential European strategic autonomy and resilience.