Trends and Perspectives of Short Sea Shipping in the Mediterranean Basin

Trends and Perspectives of Short Sea Shipping in the Mediterranean Basin


S Kapros, A Roumboutsos, University of Aegean, GR


The paper examines the current situation of Mediterranean Short Sea Shipping and identifies various trends concerning network configuration and service technical and operational characteristics.


The road traffic share in Europe - with various degrees depending on the country - is dramatically increasing, with numerous negative impacts on the environment and the quality of life leading to the need to reduce external (social) cost derived from the transport activity. Transport policy developments envisage the encouragement of Intermodality aiming to minimize environmental impacts by realizing a shift from road to intermodal transport. This key policy target consists in creating favorable conditions for decision-makers to change their transport chain structure and convert from door-to-door road to door-to-door intermodal chains.

Short Sea Shipping (SSS) is one of the pillars of intermodal transport, the other being rail-road transport chains and, in terms of external costs, contributes to EU Transport policy targets. However, within Europe the SSS activity does not seem to achieve an appropriate level of recognition or market share in the overall transport network. Regardless of its growth the last 15 years (estimated increase of 31% between 1995 and 2005 in tonne kilometers) it still lags that road transport (36% in tonne kilometers, respectively). Reasons identified through various research projects and other initiatives include, among others, the poor image for SSS as a mode, low standardization and multiple documentation procedures, constraints arising from port infrastructure and management, lack of information about and control over cargo in transit, and slow and infrequent services.

In addition, the SSS market has, recently, entered into a reorganisation stage, the aspects of which have not yet been clearly identified in the relevant scientific literature. They relate with operational characteristics and quality of services, geographical coverage and logistics performance and also reflect on the market segmentation. The proposed paper, based on an extended field survey, attempts to clearly identify these aspects, quantify a number of issues and assess their relative importance in view of the SSS perspective.

The proposed paper focuses on the Mediterranean Short Sea Shipping, a region in a rapidly changing environment, with great complexity and heterogeneity. The analysis of the current situation of SSS market in the Mediterranean basin faces a number of constraints and unknowns, such the relative potential of cargoes to be shifted from land to sea, both geographically and commodity-wise. Similarly, it is too early to conclude on the market potential of fast ships in SSS, particularly if the Motorways of the Sea projects are taken into account. Finally, as far as traffic data is concerned, there is a large variety of types of available information; the sources are diverse, existing databases are heterogeneous and a lot of other type of data simply does not exist.

The paper examines the current situation of Mediterranean Short Sea Shipping and identifies various trends concerning changes in the geographical network configuration of Short Sea Shipping services, changes in the service technical and operational characteristics, driving forces for mew market entries and exits. It also tries to assess the relative potential and dynamics of different market segments such as Ro-Ro (ferry) services and Lo-Lo container market. Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, the proposed paper finally aims at contributing to this knowledgebase and, therefore, to better identify the structural changes of the Short Sea Shipping market in the Mediterranean region.


Association for European Transport