Regulation (EC) No. 1382/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council provides for the establishment of the Marco Polo programme. This programme was introduced to reduce road congestion, improve the environmental performance of the freight transport system within the Community and enhance intermodality, thereby contributing to an efficient and sustainable transport system. The regulation provides that the financial framework for the implementation of the Marco Polo programme for the period 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2006 is €75 million.
The Marco Polo programme is intended to support actions in the freight transport, logistics and other relevant markets. These actions should contribute to maintaining the distribution of freight between the various modes of transport by helping to shift the expected increase in international road freight traffic to short sea shipping, rail and inland waterways or to a combination of modes of transport in which road journeys are as short as possible.
The regulation provides that projects shall be submitted by a consortium of two or more undertakings, established in at least two different member states or in at least one member state and one close third country. At the request of my Department, the Irish Maritime Development Office has assisted in the preparation of applications to the European Commission for financial assistance under the programme.
I am informed that two ports companies operating under the aegis of my Department submitted applications. First, Shannon Foynes Port Company, as part of a consortium with Dutch Shipping Agents, Voigt and Company and Royal Burger Group, has sought assistance of €675,000 in respect of a proposed new scheduled container service between Foynes and Rotterdam. It is estimated that the proposed service will result in 337 million tonnes-kilometres being shifted from road to the shipping mode.
Second, Dublin Port Company, as part of a consortium with the Port of Livorno, Italy, has also sought funding under the Marco Polo programme. The total amount of assistance sought is €420,000. The proposed project, titled EUROPORTCONNECT, will develop a common training education and learning needs analysis study that will establish a baseline for all training and development needs within the maritime transportation industry.