What's happening in Europe





Trans-Mediterranean flow of migrants from North Africa has slowed, but shows recent signs of resurgence this year

It’s nowhere near the 2015-16 migration spike, but the trans-Mediterranean flow of migrants has risen again this year, putting shipping at increased risk of having to rescue migrants at sea.

After a three-year lull, the numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has found new highs not seen since two years ago, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has expressed concern about risks crews must face. Ships may be enormous these days, but crews are smaller and may number no more than 20. Obliging them to rescue scores of desperate, mostly military-aged men from unseasorthy craft puts seafarers in serious peril.

Weighing factors that will influence relations between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom in the months and years to come

While the position of the European Union has been to resist the United Kingdom's decision to quit the EU, the European Commission's position is expected to change the means it employs to achieve the same end once British departure is complete.

That is to say, the EU's position will be the same in that it will continue to seek closest possible ties with the UK, but will change tactics to achieve the same end. Instead of offering deals Britain must refuse, as it has done, it will then offer trade terms that are far more attractive so to preserve its export market. Thus, the EU's ends to bring the UK into a closer relationship will remain the same, but its means will differ sharply.

Much of the Remainers' pre-Brexit talk, called "Project Fear", was based the expectation that a mean-spirited, resentful EU would seek revenge and want to get even for separatist spirit that has dominated Britain. Which, in the run up to the 2016 referendum vote and indeed the actual date of departure, was a sound tactical device in the Remain's side in their battle against the Brexiteers.

Mediterranean turnaround in more ways than one comes through the United Nations' disruptive and costly IMO 2020 low sulphur fuel rule

There has been a revival of interest in the Mediterranean ports as road and rail infrastructure improves in southern Europe, putting distribution plans in the realm of reality when before they were only the pipe dreams of Spanish, Greek and Italian port promoters.

Not that southern transport infrastructure comes close to matching that of the mature, and rapidly developing facilities offered by ports of the Northern Range, but new factors have come into play that have aroused renewed interest Med ports.

The big one, of course, is IMO 2020, the new United Nations low-sulphur fuel rule that takes effect January 1, though it is unlikely to be strictly enforced before March 1.

Ship-to-shore gantry crane market may well change as trade tensions simmer and may yet come to a boil

Shaving off operational expenses in cargo handling is one way of meeting rising environmental compliance costs that are a challenge to world shipping.

There is a consensus among container terminal operators that some solutions are better than others and that much of the cost-cutting can be achieved at the intermodal transfer stage from ship to shore then on to truck and train.

Europe has its own ship-to-shore gantry crane industry, but it has long lost ground to China. In 2004, the UK's Port Strategy journal said that China had half the global market. Today's China's market share is reckoned at 75 per cent.


Europe Trade Specialists

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