Although the free movement of goods is a basic freedom enshrined in European law, it has still not become established for the shipping industry. To fully exploit the potential of short sea shipping, it must be treated differently than intercontinental shipping. Short-sea operations should receive the same treatment as road haulage and rail transport, both with respect to customs formalities and to environmental standards.
Short-sea transport partly carries passengers and/or goods on the sea, but without crossing the ocean. Short-sea transport has a number of assets: it is cheap, environmentally-friendly and innovative. Contrary to the haulage industry, short-sea vessels do not create traffic jams and they generate much less pollution.
Unfortunately short-sea transport remains beset by a heavy load of red tape in the ports. Vessels often have to wait for hours or even days before they can get their consignment cleared by customs. Because of the extra costs and delays involved, short-sea transport continues to be at a disadvantage, all its potential notwithstanding, in relation to competing transport modes like road haulage.