Marine Minister, Mr. Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher T.D., called on Irish industry to grasp the opportunities offered by maritime transport with both hands in his keynote opening address at the seminar "Motorways of the Sea - Opportunities and Challenges for Ireland". The event was aimed at promoting and developing short sea shipping as an ecologically friendly and cost-effective means of moving freight.
Speaking at the seminar, Minister Gallagher referred to the European Commission's White Paper on Maritime Transport Policy 2010, which introduced the "motorways of the sea" concept. The Minister said, "This concept emphasises the vital importance of short sea shipping for Europe and in particular for island economies such as our own with 99% of our trade by volume going by sea. It is clear that increasing short sea shipping links between Member States and making them more efficient is in all our interests."
The seminar, which was held at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, focused on a number of key opportunities, including the challenge to maintain competitiveness, expand services and develop new trade corridors for Irish industry. It also aimed to assist Irish companies in their application for financial assistance in developing short-sea shipping networks, which is available under the EU's Marco Polo Programme, aimed at bringing about a 'modal shift' in transportation, away from potentially congested road systems, onto rail, short sea shipping and inland waterways.
The seminar was organised by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) of the Marine Institute, which has championed the Irish shipping sector through a successful campaign for an Irish Tonnage tax regime, a focused business development programme and strategic marketing programme.
"Development of short sea shipping networks around Ireland is a strategy where everybody wins," said Glenn Murphy, Director of the IMDO. "In 2003 goods to the value of over €130 billion moved through our ports and our maritime supply chains, the majority of this trade moved by short sea shipping connecting Ireland with its international markets in Europe and beyond. Our focus is to ensure that our shipping networks remain, lean, agile but above all competitive going forward."
Speakers at the seminar included Mr. Mark Major of the EU's DG TREN, Colm Walsh of the Irish International Freight Forwarders Association, Antonio Raimo, External Relations Manager of the Grimaldi group, Christoper Leathers, a shipping consultant, and Dr. John Mangan and Dr Kevin Hannigan, Co-Authors of the IMDO Inter European Trade Corridors report which was also launched at the seminar by Minister Gallagher.