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European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund

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European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund. Image: Pixabay
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The European Commission is partnering with the European Investment Fund, part of the European Investment Bank Group (EIB), to launch the BlueInvest Fund today.  During the BlueInvest Day conference in Brussels, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro and Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, launched a €75 million equity investment fund for the blue economy.

The BlueInvest Fund will be managed by the European Investment Fund and will provide financing to underlying equity funds that strategically target and support the innovative blue economy. This sector can play an important role in the transformation to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, an ambition announced in the European Green Deal. The new programme is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

The blue economy includes economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. It ranges from companies in the marine environment to land-based businesses producing goods or services that contribute to the maritime economy. The blue economy harbours many promising early-stage ventures and companies – often emanating from EU-funded R&D programmes. These companies develop solutions for renewable energy, sustainable seafood, blue biotechnology, maritime IT and much more.

The new fund is complemented by the European Commission’s BlueInvest platform, which supports investment readiness and access to finance for early-stage businesses, SMEs and scale-ups. Through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the Commission also funds an additional €40 million grant scheme, to help blue economy SMEs with developing and bringing to market new innovative and sustainable products, technologies and services.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans & Fisheries, said: “Oceans are the first in line to be hit by climate change, but they also hold many solutions to tackle climate emergency in every single marine industry, from fisheries and aquaculture, to offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, blue biotechnology and many other innovation-related fields. A €75 million equity investment fund is a tool to unlock the potential the blue economy holds both in contributing to the European Green Deal and ensuring economic growth of European SMEs developing innovative and sustainable products and services.”

EIB Vice-President, Emma Navarro, responsible for the Blue Economy, said:“Oceans are vital for life on Earth. But oceans are under threat and need to be protected. This is why we are developing innovative financing solutions to support the Blue economy. Solutions that allow us to provide financing for protecting the oceans and to turn the seas into a sustainable economic resource. The BlueInvest fund that we are launching today will give an important contribution to mobilize private investments to this sector and to get critical projects off the ground. It marks another important partnership between the EIF and the European Commission. ”

EIF Chief Executive, Alain Godard, said: “The oceans provide huge potential for economic growth, but this growth needs to be sustainable. The investments in the Blue Economy sector we signed today show how public funds in the EU can be deployed to attract private investment and catalyse the development of this sector. I am delighted that we can now launch the BlueInvest fund which combined with additional private capital will help to drive Europe’s Blue Economy agenda.”

Background

BlueInvest is a European Commission initiative that aims to improve access to finance and investment readiness for start-ups, early-stage businesses and SMEs active in the Blue Economy. Its features include an online community, investment readiness assistance for companies, investor engagement, events, an academy and a projects pipeline. More information here.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.

The EIF is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops both venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth and employment.

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Prioritise logistics or risk supply chain chaos, FTA tells UK Brexit negotiators

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Prioritise logistics or risk supply chain chaos, FTA tells UK Brexit negotiators. Image: Pixabay
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If the UK is to continue to trade efficiently with the EU, its biggest and closest market, there are six key areas the UK’s negotiators and government need to prioritise in the opening stages of talks with Europe about their future trading relationship, according to FTA, the business organisation which represents the logistics industry.

As Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s Policy Director, explains, failure by the UK government to prioritise the key areas outlined in FTA’s new policy blueprint, “Keeping the UK and the EU Trading”, could have a devastating effect on the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain, as well as creating a knock-on effect that will hamper the UK PLC’s future productivity and the country’s economy as a whole:

“While the UK is setting out its parameters for the future relationship with the EU in Brussels, it is vital that the needs of the logistics industry are front and centre of any conversations,” she says.  “UK PLC is reliant upon a highly complex, interconnected supply chain, and if the needs of those responsible for moving goods and services to support the country’s economy are not prioritised, the effects could be devastating for the supply of vital products to shops, schools, hospitals and manufacturing.  Delays to deliveries could well cause out of stock issues and shut down factories operating “just in time” production.  The logistics industry needs to be engaged from the start.

“The risk of disruption at the borders must be mitigated to ensure that businesses can continue to operate efficiently and effectively,” she continues.  “It costs more than £1 a minute to operate an HGV – so lengthy delays at the border could add significant costs to the price of goods, driving up prices and fuelling inflation.

“Trade facilitation measures are needed to reduce the impact of additional border requirements and red tape and help reduce the threat of delays and added costs.  There are a number of simplifications and agreements we are pressing negotiators to deliver which could mitigate many of these threats for our industry and our economy. The need for physical checks should be reduced and any which are required should be take place away from the border.

“Logistics needs to know now what procedures and processes will be used to cross borders, to have time to test and feedback on proposals, and then time to install and train staff. The detail our members need is not available. Complex new systems cannot be delivered overnight without interruptions to the existing supply chain, even with the best will in the world.

“There is a substantial customs agent shortage and member states and the UK government need to urgently address this by giving support, guidance and funding.  Sufficient co-funded training should be provided for those new to completing customs declarations, as well as for those handling a significant increase in declarations and other new administrative requirements.

Speaking on behalf of FTA’s membership, Ms de Jong confirmed that there are other key arrangements which must be clarified if all modes of transport are to continue to cross the UK’s borders effectively:  “Existing arrangements for road, air, sea and rail connectivity must be formally agreed soon or the impact on the availability of goods our society and the economy relies upon will be catastrophic.  And to support this, the ability of UK workers to cross borders easily must be protected – goods cannot move without a human interaction, leaving vehicles stranded at borders if extensive immigration checks are carried out.

“Logistics is a massive sector that’s vital to UK PLC, directly impacting the lives of more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. It is a flexible, highly adaptable industry, which stands ready to support the government as the UK moves towards a new economic relationship with the EU. But government needs to prioritise the needs of logistics in the first round of negotiations, so that we have time to adopt and adapt to the future arrangements to keep Britain and the EU trading after the transition period. December is only a few months away, and we need months not minutes to prepare.”

With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

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EIB supports refurbishment of Port of Ystad to accommodate climate-friendly vessels

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EIB supports refurbishment of Port of Ystad to accommodate climate-friendly vessels. Image: EIB
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The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a SEK 445 million (EUR 41.75 m) loan agreement with the Municipality of Ystad. The port in the southern-Swedish town is a busy connection point to the Polish Port of Swinoujscie and the Danish island of Bornholm. The financing will be used to expand the quays to accommodate new, more environmentally friendly, LNG vessels of over 240 meters in length, which will start operating next year.

The project aims at increasing the capacity and upgrading the Port of Ystad facilities in order to accommodate larger ro-pax vessels. Works include the construction of two new, deeper, ferry berths at a new pier located in the outer port basin, with associated facilities in reclaimed areas located to the east of the new berths. It also consists of dredging works in the existing outer basin of the port, the construction of a new breakwater south of the existing eastern breakwater, with a new reclaimed platform for future port activities expansion and the extension of the breakwater at the western part of the port.

The project is expected to improve the climate performance of the port. Measures undertaken in this sense include the improvement of on-shore power supply for berthed vessels, and a reduction of emissions by manoeuvring vessels due to easier berthing.

“Ystad is a key connection point for tourism and transport in Sweden.” says EIB Vice President Thomas Östros. “As the climate bank of the EU, the EIB wants to provide finance to projects that seek to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, while keeping business going and stimulating sustainable growth and job creation. This project is spot on in all of those senses.”

”With this investment, Port of Ystad will soon be well prepared to further consolidate its position as the third largest ferry passenger port in Sweden.” added Björn Boström, CEO of Port of Ystad. “Now, in an even more environmentally friendly way.”

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European Shipping Week 2020 opens with the latest figures on European shipping

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European Shipping Week 2020 opens with the latest figures on European shipping. Image: Flickr/ William Murphy
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The European Shipping Week 2020 – the biggest shipping event in Brussels and the flagship event of ECSA – opened on 17th February with the release of the latest figures on European shipping by Oxford Economics.

According to the latest information from 2018, European shipping directly contributed €54 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the EU. Taking into account the spill over effects to other sectors of the EU economy, the total contribution stands at €149 billion.

The European shipping industry directly employs 685,000 people. In total, taking into account the effects on other sectors of the EU economy, the European shipping industry is supporting 2 million jobs.

A direct comparison with the previous 2015 figures is difficult, due to changes in methodology and data sources. However, the trends are clear. The European shipping industry, with a few exceptions, is still under severe pressure from difficult market conditions, leading to a decline of the contribution to the EU’s GDP. As a result also the number of jobs created by the European shipping industry remains under pressure.

“Shipping is and should always remain one of the most valuable assets of Europe, economically, socially and culturally. There are many opportunities as well as challenges facing the sector. Especially the continued depressed market conditions for many EU shipowners pose extra challenges for the industry that wants to decarbonise as quickly as possible and to contribute to safe and highly skilled jobs in Europe. For European shipping to stay in business, regulators have to adopt a global perspective and ensure a global level playing field,” concluded Mr Dorsman.

“The current tensions between the global trading powers, the rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the insecurity along the Gulf of Hormuz all contribute to difficult and uncertain market conditions,” commented Martin Dorsman, ECSA’s Secretary General.

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