The future of European shipping’s global competitiveness lies in maritime education, seafarer welfare and innovation uptake


At the event organised on the Day of the Seafarer by the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) at the Antwerp Maritime Academy with the support of the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association (KBRV), we interviewed some of the speakers on the future of the maritime sector.

With the forthcoming completion of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the KBRV took the opportunity to ask Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and the North Sea what could be done to ensure Belgian shipping maintain its maritime excellence in an increasingly competitive global environment, with a less level playing field and a huge pressure for decarbonisation.

[WATCH] 0:45 Wordt nu afgespeeld Day of the Seafarer 2024: Interview with Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgium’s DPM, Minister of the North Sea

“We need to stay at the forefront at the education level, and we must embrace new technologies,” said Mr Van Tigchelt. “Artificial Intelligence is a great opportunity, without forgetting that seafarers are human beings, and we must invest in the welfare of our seafarers by creating better working conditions. We must make efforts for more diversity such as LGBTQIA+ and women. Women are under-represented in maritime. We must embrace the fact that women need a place on our ships.”

After nearly six months of intense discussions, the Belgian Presidency successfully concluded several important legislative files on maritime.

Els Claeys, Director of Safety and Environment Policy in FPS Mobility and Transport/DG Shipping of Belgium, gave us a rundown of what have been achieved, and the forthcoming work for the next EU mandate:

[WATCH] Day of the Seafarer 2024: Interview with Els Claeys, Director FPS Mobility/DG Shipping, Belgium

“Under the current mandate, a lot of new legislation was developed: the maritime safety package on the one side, the decarbonisation files such as EU ETS and FuelEU Maritime on the other. All these legislations will now have to be implemented. The implementation will need to be supported by a dedicated financial framework to incentivise further innovations, and also the use of these new fuels and technologies, for example by introducing contracts for difference.

“At the same time, the EU needs to monitor any unintended side effects to ensure the level playing field for the EU maritime sector is maintained. For the same reason, it needs to monitor and react to protectionism from other parts of the world.

“At the international level, we need to cooperate within the IMO on decarbonisation, security and seafarers.

“Last but not least, on ship recycling, the EU regulation, the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention will need to be aligned.”

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