Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (1278)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

1278. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress to date on the EU motorways of the sea initiative; the specific actions taken to date under the TEN-T guidelines to achieve a European maritime space without barriers; the implications for this initiative of Brexit and the UK landbridge; the port and ferry supports available under the initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18668/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is the funding instrument for the EU's Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Motorways of the Sea is considered a horizontal priority of CEF and constitutes the maritime pillar of CEF. It is a separate and smaller funding stream under the overall CEF allocation, and it aims to promote green, viable, attractive and efficient sea-based transport links which are integrated into the entire transport chain.

To date, there have been fifty projects funded under the Motorways of the Sea funding priority overall. Over half of these have been for actions that can be categorised as environmental, with the remainder in the areas of logistics and integration and traffic management. Projects funded under the Motorways of the Sea funding priority must involve at least two Member States and at least one core TEN-T port. Details of all fifty projects, including beneficiaries and the amount of CEF funding awarded per project, are available on the website of the European Commission at the following link:

https://ec.europa.eu/inea/en/connecting-europe-facility/cef-transport/projects-by-horizontal-priority/motorways-of-the-sea-%28mos%29

There have been two successful applications for Motorways of the Sea funding involving Irish beneficiaries. Separately, Ireland's three core TEN-T ports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes have all been successful in applying for and obtaining significant CEF funding under broader maritime funding objectives.

The most recent Motorways of the Sea detailed implementation plan was published in April 2018 by the former European Coordinator for Motorways of the Sea, Mr Brian Simpson. Professor Kurt Bodewig assumed the role of European Coordinator for Motorways of the Sea in September 2018 and plans to publish a new detailed implementation plan in late 2019.

On 16 and 17 April 2019, a Motorways of the Sea seminar on the topic of Ireland's European Connectivity took place in Dublin. This seminar was organised by the TEN-T European Coordinators for Motorways of the Sea, the North Sea - Mediterranean Core Network Corridor, and the Atlantic Core Network Corridor. Present at this seminar were many of the key representatives in the port, shipping, freight and logistics sectors, from Ireland and other Member States with Atlantic coastlines, as well as officials from DG MOVE and the European Commission's Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).

I met with the three TEN-T European Coordinators during their visit to Ireland to discuss the future of Motorways of the Sea in the context of the new Connecting Europe Facility Regulation for the period 2021 - 2027. During this meeting, I communicated to the Coordinators the potential that Brexit has to fracture the level of connectivity that currently exists for Irish traders. I emphasised that the capacity of our ports and our shipping links are vital to the success of the national economy, particularly as an island nation on the periphery of Europe. I stressed that EU funding opportunities and assistance through CEF and Motorways of the Sea would be welcome in order to encourage practical solutions to Ireland's current challenges.

Finally, with regard to the UK landbridge, the Government’s preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit has from the outset and as a priority included issues relating to its continued effective use, given its importance for Irish exporters and importers as a means of access to the rest of the single market, in particular with regard to agri-food products. This is an important issue with regard to protecting the competitiveness of our producers and ensuring continued unhampered access to the EU Single Market.

Retaining the effective use of the landbridge post-Brexit has been discussed at both political and official level with the UK and the EU. As a result of these contacts, the importance of maintaining the landbridge has been recognised through the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the draft Withdrawal Agreement. This reaffirms the commitment of the UK to facilitate the efficient and timely transit through the UK of goods moving from Ireland to another EU Member State or another country, or vice versa.

To this end, I welcome the EU's agreement that the UK will join the Common Transit Convention upon its departure from the EU, and that the formal process required for this to happen has concluded. The UK’s accession to the Common Travel Convention will play an important role in ensuring Ireland’s access to other EU Member States via the UK landbridge. Work has been on-going in partnership the European Commission and affected Member States with regard to the Union's internal transit procedures and infrastructural solutions at EU ports to facilitate transit post-Brexit and is progressing well, though the risk of delays in a no deal Brexit scenario remains a concern notably on the Dover-Calais route.