Port activities are crucial for trade, economic development, and job generation within Europe. Many Blue Economy sectors rely on them for fundamental infrastructure and services, including marine living and non-living resources, renewable energy, coastal tourism, maritime defence, security, and transportation. Moreover, ports are the beating heart of the maritime shipping industry, facilitating the free movement of goods and services throughout Europe as departure, entry, and transfer points.
However,the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in combination with the green and digital transitions, is bringing about a profound transformation of Europe’s economy and society. While the port industry provides opportunities, it also poses challenges, such as local and global environmental impacts, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and garbage generation, and noise pollution.
The European Commission is seeking to address these issues through legislation such as the‘Fit for 55 package’ , whereby the EU aims to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. Other initiatives include the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation which aims to reduce the environmental impact of maritime vessels by setting out requirements for energy provisions.
As facilitators of economic and trade development, ports ensure cooperation between other ports and shipping lines within the logistics chain. Indeed, with with 75% of imported and exported goods and 31% of intra-EU transactions passing through them, seaports are critical to the EU's international and internal trade
With regards to employment, the sector employed 382 625 people in 2019, up from 381 570 in 2009. Personnel costs climbed by 21%, from EUR 13.3 billion in 2009 to EUR 16.1 billion in 2019. This led to a similar 21% increase in average wages compared to 2009. The average annual salary was estimated to be EUR 42 100 in 2019.
Many European ports are vital energy and industrial centres, providing as clean energy providers to vessels (for navigation and use while at berth), serving as import points for clean energy to be used upstream (LNG, hydrogen) or through energy production in their area.