A port is more than a complex of berths, docks, and adjacent land where ships and cargoes are served. Many definitions have been attributed to the term port aiming to capture all the activities and interactions taking place in and through it. According to the ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport 2001) “A sea port is a logistic and industrial node in the global transport system with a strong maritime character and in which a functional and spatial clustering of activities takes place, activities that are directly or indirectly linked to seamless transportation and transformation processes within logistic chains.”.

Within EU, ports are vital key points of modal transfer handling 90% of Europe's international trade and 40% of the intra-Community trade. The importance of the port industry for EU can be easily assumed through the total number of 1 200 merchant ports located in some 100 000 km of European coasts (Europe, maritime affairs), which are responsible for direct and in-direct source of more than half a million jobs. In 2005, the number of HR employed in EU seaports and related services exceeded 284.000 individuals (EC, DG fisheries and Mare, 2005) with UK, Spain, Denmark, Belgium and France holding more than 10% of total port related employment in EU.

The importance of EU Seaports is documented in several policy documents among which the Communication on a European Ports Policy {SEC(2007)1339}{SEC(2007)1340 where the EU sets as key goal the development of a strong and competitive Port System able to cope with key challenges such as:

  • The provision of quality, low cost and reliable services
  • Adaptability to major technological changes through the use of the most advanced IT, navigation, and telecommunication technologies.
  • The commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and the other existing environmental problems related to port operations
  • To reconcile ports development and management with transparency, competition, and in general the Community set of rules

Taking into consideration the fact that maritime activities are becoming more and more “knowledge dependant’, the availability of skilled human capital is more than necessity towards the implementation of the EU goal for a competitive and efficient EU port system. This is also in line with the Lisbon Agenda which focuses on making Europe “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”

Scope of this project is to examine the current “map” of the EU ports’ human ‘capital’ in relation to the sector’s needs and requirements in well educated, trained and qualified staff, that, under the spectrum of technological changes and innovations can ensure safe and efficient operations in EU ports securing the competitiveness of the EU ports’ industry.

The recent Communication from the Commission, titled Ports: an engine for growth (COM(2013) 295 final) has been published, following a long and detailed consultation period. The communication identifies several actions to be pursued, including the creation of a port sector Social Dialogue Committee. It highlights the issue of port work as an occupation with high risk of accidents and health implications for workers. It calls for the launching of a concerted action project to examine health and safety, training and qualification challenges in EU ports, with the involvement of the Social Dialogue committee. This communication also reviews the European Port Policy and builds on the progress achieved.

EU-PORTRAItS started the 1st December 2013 and it will run till 30 April 2016 with a budget of 1.388.740 €.

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