Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

43 Transport policy




COM(06) 336

+ ADDs 1-2




COM(06) 380

+ ADDs 1-2

Commission Communication: Freight transport logistics in Europe — the key to sustainable mobility

Commission Communication: Mid-term review of the programme for the promotion of short sea shipping

Legal base
Documents originated(a) 28 June 2006

(b) 13 July 2006

Deposited in Parliament(a) 10 July 2006

(b) 19 July 2006

Basis of consideration(a) EM of 21 July 2006

(b) EM of 27 July 2006

Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilDecember 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared, but relevant to the debate in European Standing Committee on the Commission Communication on the mid-term review of its 2001 Transport White Paper


43.1 The Commission's 2001 White Paper "European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to decide" drew attention to the importance of both freight transport logistics and short sea shipping (that is any maritime journey within or between Member States or a nearby third country such as Norway) to sustainable mobility. [103]

The documents

43.2 In its Communication on freight transport logistics, document (a), the Commission asserts the importance of logistics in providing sustainable mobility of goods as part of increasing European competitiveness and prosperity. It defines freight transport logistics as the planning, organisation, management, control and execution of freight transport operations in the supply chain. It also defines other terms it uses:

  • co-modality — "the efficient use of transport modes operating on their own or in multimodal integration in the European transport system to reach an optimal and sustainable utilisation of resources";
  • multimodality — "the carriage of goods by two or more modes of transport, irrespective of the types of freight, within a single transport chain"; and
  • third-party logistics — "an organisation [using] external logistics providers that supply all or a considerable number of its logistical activities".

43.3 The Commission argues that:

  • rail and inland waterways should be modernised;
  • air freight should be better integrated into the logistics system;
  • the positive development of short sea shipping should be accelerated; and
  • deep sea shipping and its connection to its hinterland should be enhanced.

43.4 The Commission outlines a number of areas which could be enhanced through the development of a framework strategy:

  • identification of bottlenecks in the transport chain and of solutions;
  • improving information and communications technology;
  • provision of better logistics training;
  • better statistical data through monitoring and benchmarking the European transport market;
  • optimising utilisation of current infrastructure;
  • service performance and quality standards;
  • promotion and simplification of multi-modal chains; and
  • loading standards.

43.5 The Communication is accompanied by staff working documents containing an impact assessment points arising from the assessment for further consideration.

43.6 Following consultation on the Communication the Commission proposes to present an Action Plan in 2007.

43.7 The Communication in document (b) is a mid-term review by the Commission of the 14 legislative, technical and operational actions proposed in the Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping.[104] The Commission records that short sea shipping has maintained its position as the only mode of transport able to challenge the fast growth of road transport. Between 1995 and 2004 the tonne-kilometre performance of short sea shipping in the EU (including the new Member States) grew by 32%, while road performance grew by 35%. It performs 39% of all tonne-kilometres in the EU while the share of road is 44%. The fastest growing segment of short sea shipping has continued to be containerised cargo, with an average yearly growth of 8.8% since 2000.

43.8 The Commission reports that progress on the Programme is more than half-way to completion and is addressing the main problem areas facing the mode. Three actions have been almost or fully completed:

  • the adoption of International Maritime Organisation facilitation forms in the Member States (and where a new target has been set);
  • Motorways of the Sea[105] (also where a new target has been set); and
  • the Short Sea Customs procedures Guide (which has now been merged with other ongoing actions).

In some cases there is a need to target an action more precisely than earlier, that is for integrating short sea shipping more tightly into the logistics supply chain, or add a new target, that is extending the scope of Short Sea Promotion Centres to cover inland supply chains.

43.9 The Commission concludes that the 14 actions introduced in the Promotion Programme seem to have been the right ones, and work on all of them should continue with amplified efforts in co-operation with Member States, the industry and the European Shortsea Network.[106]

43.10 The Communication is accompanied by staff working documents about an impact assessment of the Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping.

The Government's view

43.11 The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) says that in general terms the issues outlined in the Communication at document (a) are valid and the proposed development of an action plan is sound. He adds that the Government supports the use of non-legislative measures where practicable to improve overall logistics efficiency and aims to get the Commission to facilitate discussions with industry and to provide benchmarking and best practice information for logistics providers as key elements of an action plan.

43.12 But the Minister also says that some of the Commission's more detailed thinking raises a number of issues which would be difficult for the Government citing:

  • the Commission's proposal for a European Standard for intermodal containers. He notes that a draft Directive on standards for intermodal containers (intermodal loading units)[107] was effectively rejected by Member States in 2004 and says the Government sees no reason for this to be resurrected, as industry will devise standards it believes necessary; and
  • reopening of the vehicle weights and dimensions debate. Consideration of increases in weights and dimensions of road vehicles is premature. He says the Government is looking at alternative lorry weights and dimensions, but suggests that significant and widespread increases in lorry sizes would introduce infrastructure and acceptability issues. The Minister adds that the Government has concerns that such increases would undermine current and future investment in other modes of transport and reduce their potential for the development of co-modal logistics schemes.

43.13 On the Communication in document (b) the Minister says that:

  • the Government shares the Commission's desire to increase short sea shipping;
  • the focus on encouragement and promotion is welcome;
  • the balance between EU and Member State activity is appropriate with both Member State administrations and industry having a substantial contribution towards the achievement of objectives;
  • the Government supports most of the components of the Commission's Programme, particularly the Commission's efforts to work with Member States in areas such as streamlining procedures, which will facilitate industry's commercial operations through more effective administration;
  • the Commission has made good progress since 2003 to implement the proposed measures; and
  • the Government has told the Commission its view that while elements of the programme might be refined or better targeted, it would be best to concentrate on completing the existing actions and consolidate the work done so far rather than having any new initiatives before this Programme is finished and that it is pleased the Commission has settled on this approach.

43.14 The Minister adds that the main area of the Programme where the Government is at odds with the Commission is in relation to the proposal for a Directive on intermodal loading units. He repeats that the Government is not convinced that the proposal is necessary and believes that industry should take the lead if further standardisation is required.


43.15 These documents review important areas of the Community's transport policy. Although clearing them from scrutiny, we note that they are both relevant to the debate in European Standing Committee we have recommended on the recent Commission Communication on the mid-term review of its 2001 Transport White Paper.[108]

103   (22660) 11932/01 (22776) 12597/01: See HC 152-xv (2001-02), para 2 (30 January 2002) and Stg Co Deb, European Standing Committee A, 13 March 2002, cols. 3-28. Back

104   (24452) 8523/03: See HC 63-xxii (2002-03), para 3 (21 May 2003), HC 42-iii (2003-04), para 2 (17 December 2003) and HC 42-xi (2003-04), para 15 (25 February 2004). Back

105   (24941) 13297/03 (24970) 13244/03: See HC 63-xxxvi (2002-03), para 3 (5 November 2003) and Stg Co Deb, European Standing Committee A, 11 November 2003, cols. 3-26. Back

106   See Back

107   (24452) 8523/03: See HC 63-xxii (2002-03), para 3 (21 May 2003), HC 42-iii (2003-04), para 2 (17 December 2003) and HC 42-xi (2003-04), para 15 (25 February 2004) and (25651) 9265/04: HC 42-xxiii (2003-04), para 9 (16 June 2004). Back

108   (27648) 10954/06 + ADD1: See HC 34-xxxvi (2005-06), para 1 (19 July 2006). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 26 October 2006