On the occasion of the European Maritime Day, 28 and 29 May 2015, held at Piraeus Athens-Greece
Blue Growth is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. It is the maritime contribution to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The 'blue' economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year. However, further growth is possible in a number of areas which are highlighted within the strategy.
The strategy consists of three components:
1. Develop sectors that have a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth, such as:
a. aquaculture (Fisheries website)
d. ocean energy
Gateways to Maritime Growth
On 28 and 29 May 2015, European Maritime Day was devoted to the role of territories; ports and coastal cities on the one hand, and more broadly coastal areas on the other hand. Europe needs to be at the forefront of the Blue economy revolution. We want future generations to enjoy the fruits of the sea as much as ourselves. In Piraeus, politicians, experts and CEOs discussed this challenge and submitted their ideas to European policy-makers.
European Maritime Day - 28 May 2015
Keynote Speech of Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, at European Maritime Day, Piraeus, Athens, Greece
European Maritime Day is truly special. It brings us all together: politicians and policy-makers; corporate people and investors; seafarers and fishermen; marine planners and port operators; researchers, nature scientists and engineers; and many more.
Europe's seas are a bountiful source of nutritious food, medicine, minerals and renewable energy. They also contribute towards one of Europe's main sector – tourism + cruising.
They provide a variety of ecosystem services, from producing oxygen, through absorbing CO2 emissions to regulating the climate.
Our seas carry almost 90% of the EU’s external trade and 37% of its internal trade through ports just like the one in Piraeus. Indeed Greece's merchant fleet is a very good example, being one of the biggest in the world.
We mentioned tourism. In Greece, healthy seas are also the basis for sustainable maritime tourism, making up double digit percentages of the overall Greek economy.
The EU's maritime economy represents a gross value added of over 500 billion euro per year.
It already provides between 3.5 to almost 5 million jobs and is growing dynamically. The cruise tourism sector keeps adding an extra 3% of jobs year-on-year. Employment in offshore wind energy is increasing by a whopping 30% every 12 months!
Opportunities and how to seize them
The potential for blue growth is enormous. A recent report by WWF says that the value of the world’s ocean resources is around 21 trillion euro.
So how should Europe seize this opportunity?
Europe needs to do five things: protect, innovate, invest, train and reach out. You will be discussing each of these at this conference.
We need to protect our resource base.
This is not a balancing exercise between the environment and the economy. They are two sides of the same coin: if our oceans are not healthy, our maritime economy also falls sick. If we are eroding our seas, we are eroding our own growth base.
For example, we need to look at innovative solutions that nature itself offers us: dunes as coastal protection, wetlands as pollution filters or fish nurseries.
Of course, innovation does not only help greening traditional blue economies. It also opens up brand new business opportunities.
A Spanish company, for instance, recently developed an anti-tumor drug hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than any cancer potion now in use, from sea squirts living on the sea floor.
A key challenge remains bringing good ideas to the market. I am therefore happy to announce that we will be launching the European Business and Science Forum at this conference later today. The Forum will speed up cooperation between science and industry and help focus innovation on key areas of the blue economy.
I have good news for you. The money is there to boost the EU's maritime economy.
More than 300 billion euros worth of investment will become available when President Juncker's European Fund for Strategic Investments becomes operational. Blue business will be very well placed to apply and I encourage you to apply.
Just last week, the EIB approved financing for the construction of new offshore windfarms, as part of President Juncker's Investment Plan.
And there are many other good candidates. Around one fifth – nearly 500 – of the first batch of projects submitted under the Investment Plan could support the blue economy and generate blue growth. They are worth nearly 300 bn euros.
Our Maritime Fund, the Regional Development Fund and Horizon 2020 provide even more financing options for you.
Look for instance at West Wales, where regional authorities have earmarked an amount of €100 million under the Regional Funds for the development of ocean energy. Their advances formed the cornerstone of our discussion at the Ocean Energy event we had in April.
I encourage you to look further and see how blue growth projects could best benefit from the available funds.
I intend to organise a high-level conference later this year dedicated to discussing the funding possibilities for the maritime economy.
Ideas and money are not enough if there are no skilled people to put them into motion.
We know that the skills and qualifications of employees often do not match the needs of maritime business. Let's work together and find out what is missing the most. Specialised engineers for the marine renewable energy industry? Technicians to maintain offshore installations? Biologists for aquaculture?
And once we have these answers, how can we fill the gap? How could the maritime economy better forecast its labour market needs? How should we promote practical cooperation between industry and education?
As a first step I will launch within the next days a listening tour on oceans and their governance. I will be asking for stakeholders' views on what is missing or not functioning well and what role the EU should play in changing that. I hope you will all take part. Your views matter. A lot.
I will launch this at the World Ocean Summit in Lisbon next week. Please help me bring your ideas to the table. The EU is rightly recognised as a global leader on Ocean management. Let's develop that reputation even further.