The infrastructure investment needs and financing challenge of European Ports
MESSAGE FROM ESPO CHAIR
The development of the Single European Market required the elimination of
a range of barriers to trade. Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe’s
seaports where the work to create a level playing pitch has been a project
of decades. In recent years, however, there has been a range of inter-related EU
policy initiatives which have largely created the level playing pitch in the port
sector. As a result, seaports are now in the position to fully realise their potential
and maximise their contribution to the prosperity of people and communities
throughout the EU.
Central to this change has been the increased focus on ports as commercial
entities with increased financial autonomy in most cases. However, this new
perspective highlights a conundrum at the heart of port development plans.
In many cases, the main benefits of port projects accrue to the wider community
and economy rather than to the port authority itself. This is particularly true
when ports invest in basic infrastructure to provide capacity for future growth.
Beyond that, the requirement for ports to invest in basic infrastructure has
been joined by a range of investment requirements as a result of wider societal
imperatives particularly in the areas of environmental policy and energy policy.
The challenge ports everywhere face now, is to implement projects which
often are financially unattractive to the port authority and even less
attractive to external investors but which are essential for wider societal and
Some ports are financially strong enough to finance such projects and accept
the low financial returns. Other ports are challenged to implement projects
which are essential but are entirely beyond their means.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is the essential means to resolve
TEN-T policy recognises ports as engines for growth. Europe’s ports have the
projects ready to meet TEN-T objectives. CEF is the facilitator.
As CEF ll is being prepared, the experience and expertise of Europe’s ports has
been harnessed in this study report by ESPO to provide Europe’s institutions
with an informed viewpoint on the needs of ports and on how ports can
contribute to the achievement of TEN-T and other EU policies.
ESPO recognises that there are many demands on the EU budget at a time when
the size of this budget is challenged by Brexit. But there are important choices
to be made in how scarce resources are allocated.
ESPO contends that investment in Europe’s seaports is essential if critical policy
objectives are to be met in a wide range of EU policy areas. If Europe’s seaports
cannot make the investments that are needed, then key policy objectives in the
areas of transport, energy and environment will be compromised.
Nine key findings are presented in this report, which go beyond a simplistic
request by ports for more funds, to inform the debate and discussion of the size
and allocation of the budget for the second Connecting Europe Facility.
The Full Report is available on the ESPO website here