The Sustainability and Competitiveness of European Short-Sea Shipping

​Zeeshan Raza at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, has just defended his doctoral thesis on Europe’s short sea shipping (SSS) industry, an industry which has been exposed to a plethora of environmental regulations in the past several years.
The need for additional resources in order to comply with those regulations has adversely affected the competitiveness of SSS against unimodal road haulage. Furthermore, despite extensive support from the European Comission in promoting the use of SSS as an alternative to road haulage, the market share of SSS remains low.

Zeeshan's research provides insights into some factors especially slow steaming, collaboration and green innovations affecting the environmental sustainability and competitiveness of European SSS in the context of environmental regulations and EU policy promoting SSS.

The findings of Zeeshan's research indicate, that for the roll on, roll off (RoRo) and roll on, roll off cargo and passenger transport (RoPax) sectors of SSS, bunker prices, rigorous competition and, above all, different service quality requirements in terms of total transit time, frequency, reliability and the convenience of departure and arrival times significantly restrict slow steaming’s potential implementation. Therefore, managers of RoRo and RoPax companies should focus on increasing port efficiency and saving time at port to support the application of slow steaming without compromising total lead times.

Furthermore, the intermodal integration of different modes of freight transport and strategic collaboration among cargo owners, ship operators and forwarding agents might enhance system efficiency, as well as reduce lead times, emissions and costs per unit of output, and thereby generate additional revenues for all stakeholders involved.

Results from the research further show that green innovations in technology, including ones related to energy efficiency, bear a strong impact on firms’ economic and environmental performance of SSS firms.

However, entirely optional use of technical and operational measures is not likely to engender the sort of environmentally friendly improvements needed to clean up the industry, meaning that other types of mitigatory measures (e.g. regulations) may be the last remaining recourse for reducing the externalities of SSS.

Before devising and implementing new regulations, policymakers such as the IMO and the EC should weigh the environmental benefits possible from regulation against possible overall effects for the entire transport system. In addition to using regulations (i.e. “sticks”), policymakers should consider providing incentives (i.e. “carrots”) to SSS companies as a means to encourage desired environmental outcomes and promote innovations and collaboration.


Published: Fri 26 Jun 2020.