European maritime clusters will meet the European Commission (EC) next month to discuss launching a “tool for maritime policy-making” to strengthen the fortunes of Europe’s blue economy and in turn the economy of the whole region.
Under the umbrella of the European Network of Maritime Clusters (ENMC), industry players have so far successfully lobbied the EC for funding of EUR460,000 (USD515,000). This will support the first step – hiring a consulting company to collect data to gauge the “economic weight” of Europe’s maritime sector.
The ENMC says that important data about the maritime sector and its subsectors, such as direct employment and turnover, is either unavailable or theoretical and imprecise. The consultancy would rectify this situation by creating a methodology whereby accurate and comprehensive data can be gathered.
“When speaking about the Blue Growth strategy of the EC, it is important to have data to fact-check the impact of political decisions,” ENMC chairman Francis Vallat and secretary-general Paul Marceul, told IHS Maritime.
They said the policy-making tool will enable effective funding decisions. “It should help all stakeholders to identify promising sectors and/or to see where to put public money or where to invest.”
The tender for a company to carry out the year-long data-gathering exercise closed on 9 September and the ENMC awaits the result.
The consultant will “have itchy feet”, said Vallat and Marceul, visiting every EU member state, countries of the European Economic Area – landlocked as well as coastal – and will meet the governments, maritime clusters, and “any relevant organisation at regional, national, and European level”.
The move to consolidate data on the region’s maritime economy kicked off in 2012 at an ENMC meeting in Schengen, Luxembourg. The group had expressed concern that the EC “only relies on estimations and often not sufficiently accurate figures, even when drafting important new policies”.
They concluded that “what is today known for sure is interesting but not exploitable”.
An initial data-gathering exercise provided interesting information but again the data collected was inadequate and impossible to consolidate and harmonise. “In some cases, it was not clear if the figures provided were really reliable,” said a 2014 information sheet from ENMC.
Once the new regime has been established, the study will be updated every two years and results put in a database maintained by the EC.
At next month’s meeting EC seed-funding for the ENMC will also be requested and discussed.
“We have a lot of ambitions and it [would be useful] to get some seed capital from the commission to further develop the ENMC,” said Marceul.
This idea was raised in a high level meeting with Karmenu Vella, EC commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs, and fisheries, in July this year.
The ENMC said that “an integrated European cluster would be more than instrumental for improving the co-operation between the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the professionals themselves”.
The ENMC is a group of national maritime clusters, each of which is made up of individual companies. Marceul said the ENMC’s primary rationale is that national clusters are stronger together.
“Together we get new ideas, gain new insights, and communicate a lot. We meet at least once a year and exchange best practices, share common issues and challenges, and find common solutions. It’s a very good networking platform for national clusters and for our member companies,” he said.