The European Commission has set in motion a long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole, and to stabilise them financially.
Under the title “Blue Growth”, this strategy sums up the European Commission’s will of placing all sea-related sectors under the common Europe 2020 goal of a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The strategy establishes several geographical areas -among them, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea – and is devoted to the following subjects: aquaculture, coastal and maritime tourism, marine biotechnology, ocean energy, seabed mining, shipbuilding and ship repair, transport, fisheries, and offshore oil and gas.
Blue Growth challenges all Blue Economy players to be proactive and launch actual proposals aimed at relaunching investment and innovation in the sea-related sectors. Particularly, the European Commission understands ports as development hubs for all regional initiatives regarding Blue Growth.
In the Atlantic theatre, the Blue Growth strategy is put into practice through the Atlantic Action Plan, which encourages European Atlantic countries to collaborate supporting traditional activities such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism and navigation, but also emerging ones such as ocean energies or marine biotechnology. The goals of this plan are generating knowledge, reducing carbon footprint, making a sustainable use of marine resources, reacting efficiently to threats and emergencies, and applying an ecosystemic managerial approach to Atlantic waters.
Regarding the Mediterranean Sea, given that most of its waters are outside any national jurisdiction, the Integrated Maritime Policy focuses on fostering cooperation and governance, as well as on encouraging sustainable growth, in order to manage maritime activities, protect the marine environment and heritage, prevent and fight pollution, improve maritime security and encourage blue growth and job creation.
Also, the Blue Growth strategy is aligned with the goals of national and regional Smart Specialisation (RIS3) strategies, which adapt European policies to the particular circumstances of their originating regions.
Since its conception in 2012, Blue Growth has led to several notable initiatives, such as the creation of the Support Team for the Atlantic Action Plan, which supports Blue Growth collaborative projects in the Atlantic European regions, or the European Blue Growth Exhibition, the first fair devoted to Blue Growth issues.
Nevertheless, one of the most interesting initiatives could be Blue Growth Port of Vigo 2016-2020, in which the Port Authority of Vigo has made Blue Growth its own strategy and has decided to apply it to its particular context. As a result, 38 projects and 44 actions have been defined with the participation of 250 representatives of 117 organisations coming from all sides of the port community (public administrations, private sector, research and training centres, and society).
At any rate, these are only the first steps of a relatively new strategy. In fact, many opportunities are still to be explored and developed, particularly in regards to ports, which could finally enjoy a plan aimed at their particular circumstances and bringing together the interests and viewpoints of their communities, a plan to help them become a driving force for innovation in the Blue Economy of their regions.