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Open Days: Baltic Sea straits in favour of a green and competitive maritime transportation (Brussels, 9 October 2013)

Published the 18 October 2013

As one of the two lead partners in the European Straits Initiative along with Kent, the Pas-de-Calais County Council takes part in European and international conferences and events to raise, with a large audience, the issues that affect straits. At Open Days – the large annual gathering of European local authorities in Brussels and in Europe, on 9 November 2013 – the three Baltic Sea straits which are part of the European Straits Initiative were the subject of speeches made by experts during a session entitled, “Saving the sea the Baltic way – turning tougher transport regulations into competitive advantages”.

At the 2013 Open Days – the large annual gathering of European local authorities in Brussels and in Europe – the three Baltic Sea straits which are part of the European Straits Initiative were addressed during a session entitled, “Saving the sea the Baltic way – turning tougher transport regulations into competitive advantages”.

In a context in which the Baltic sea, as a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA), will have to considerably reduce the amount of sulphur emitted by the maritime transportation sector from 2015 onwards, some ship-owners reacted quickly and started exploring innovative solutions to the problem – notably a zero-emissions solution – such as the ferry company Scandline, which runs services between the German and Danish sides of the Strait of Fehmarn (Fehmarn Belt). An intense debate took place regarding the choice between liquefied natural gas (LNG) and technologies based on the use of hydrogen, with the former gaining the most support, despite the extra cost that using LNG can generate for ship-owners. Helsinki City Council outlined the Rail Baltic venture, which connects Finland to Poland via the Gulf of Finland and which combines maritime and rail transportation.

Finally, the Kvarken multimodal link, a project funded by the European Union’s TEN-T (trans-European transport network) programme, through a public-private partnership (PPP), enabled the viability of ferry links to be ensured in the Strait of Kvarken, between Sweden and Finland, in order to allow a more direct route to be used between the north of Norway and Russia. This was achieved by interconnecting existing railway lines. The project, which should be green-lit in the coming weeks, notably provides for the construction of a lighter ferry which is less energy-hungry and is capable of breaking ice in winter but which is also powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), in order to comply with the International Maritime Organisation’s sulphur regulation.

During a session entitled “River and maritime borders – in favour of regional sharing of experiences”, an interesting presentation in relation to the European Straits Initiative was made on the Strait of Gibraltar and on a project which is under way. The project is to jointly list the strait – incorporating the maritime and land areas on the Spanish and Moroccan sides – as a biosphere reserve.

Since one of the aims of the European Straits Initiative is to have the specificities of European straits recognised in European policy, it was vital for the ESI partnership to have a presence in Brussels at the Open Days, in order to have the voice of the straits of Europe heard.

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