Project Name: Advisory Council for Maritime Research in Europe
WEGEMT’s Role: Scientific support and Content / Dissemination and Communication
WEGEMT Budget: 65,760 Euro
Budget: 977,000 Euro

The history of civilisation and of commerce cannot be separated from that of waterborne transport. Trade of goods, passenger transport, exchange of knowledge, meeting of different civilisations, development of cities and regions were in past centuries often only possible by means of waterborne transport. Since the dawn of civilisation ships have evolved to enable mankind to fulfil new ambitions and new needs and they will continue to do so, for a long way to go. Today’s Europe could not be imagined without waterborne transport and its related operations. The waterborne industries are economic enterprises in their own right, offering employment and contributing to Europe’s economic development; they are also a prerequisite for our way of living by facilitating the supply of goods, food and energy.
A European Strategic Innovation Alliance
In December 2003 the Maritime Industry Forum (MIF) initiated the process for the establishment of an Advisory Council for Waterborne Transport Research in Europe (subsequently named: WATERBORNE TP) functioning as a forum where all the stakeholders would agree on a medium to long term Vision (“Vision 2020″), assess the key challenges for the maritime industry and waterborne transport and operations, would formulate the R&D actions to be fulfilled for meeting these challenges in a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), and would promote the mobilisation of the necessary resources. The Technology Platform WATERBORNE TP was launched during the MIF-plenary on 25 January 2005 in Bremen, in the presence of Günter Verheugen, Vice President of the European Commission.
A Grown and Proven European Maritime Cluster
The waterborne sector developed dramatically especially over the past century and became increasingly complex in terms of specialised sub-sectors, technology, systems and in global competition. Indeed, globalisation and the need for a continued competitiveness bring threats, but equally offer opportunities to be exploited to the fullest extend. Coherent initiatives have to be taken for the further development and enhanced competitiveness of the EU maritime and other waterborne related industries. The World will not be standing by to see how and what Europe’s waterborne sector develops and competition is fierce, while regulatory and economic pressures are setting boundaries.

The European waterborne industry consists of thousands of companies as well as related organisations and bodies including: ship owners, barge owners, shipyards, equipment manufacturers and systems suppliers, classification societies, ports and port services, engineering services and other knowledge providers which all engage in a wide range of activities. Many of these individual companies are SME’s; several are international leaders in their business and sub-sectors and intend to remain so.

Between them they serve Global and European supply chains through shipping services, operate passenger transport, offer the related infrastructures and logistics, provide coastal and other dredging works, provide ships and equipment, also for modern navies, as well as for the exploration and exploitation of the oceans, and, satisfy the demand for holidays and leisure at sea. At the same time, these industries hold many common elements, commercial interests and often also have a “customer-supplier” relation.

Stakeholders and Objectives

WATERBORNE TP includes all actors along the waterborne value chain: those who build ships, boats and their systems and equipment, those who use and operate them for transport and services, those who provide the related infrastructure and ports and those who organize the exploitation of ocean resources. Apart from general business objectives and management, WATERBORNE TP is mainly building on the know-how of navigators, naval architects and marine engineers, who drive the development in all sub-sectors included in the technology platform.
The “Waterborne” Technology Platform is a consensus based forum. The objective of WATERBORNE TP is to bundle efforts of the European waterborne actors, to remain champions, in maritime transport, in the production of efficient and safe vessels as well as the related systems and equipment, in providing infrastructure and logistics for ports and waterways, in offshore technology and for leisure craft – to continue to create value and high qualification employment opportunities in Europe.

Consequently the platform is industry-driven but includes with the same importance universities and research institutes, EU member states, the European Commission and other stakeholders which are relevant to society as a whole.


For meeting the day-to-day and future challenges, to be competitive and able to manage the growth of markets, new know-how and ability of the people involved are essential. In this we find another common element, as irrespective for which actor and in which sub-sector they are actually working they often have a comparable background of qualification, know-how and experience, including navigators, naval architects, marine engineers and at managerial level.

Despite the diversity of activity and business interests, it is the common know-how and scope for synergies that have linked the different actors together in a successful European “maritime cluster”. The waterborne sector has manifested this cluster-approach more visibly already in the early 1990ies by creating the Maritime Industry Forum (MIF), which also defined a first research agenda in form of the Maritime Industry R&D Master Plan.

Waterborne industry does not stand isolated, there are wider interests and interrelations, such as commercial service providers like financial services and not in the last place supporting, controlling and regulating governmental institutions. To fulfil their tasks well, they require personnel that know the industry from within. Although not the immediate aim, industry thus in practice also has a role as a training pool for supplying qualified and experienced people to the ‘outside’.

The WATERBORNE TP strategy to build and consolidate the European maritime cluster’s know how is developed in two complementary documents : the Vision 2020 and the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA). The Vision 2020 lays down the main challenges of WATERBORNE TP ‘s medium and long term vision. The SRA translates into concrete R&D milestones the necessary steps to achieve this vision.

Both Vision 2020 and SRA are tools rather than position papers and they necessarily need to be dynamic in order to accommodate modified scenarios and other changes, as often as necessary, to increase the likelihood of realisation of the Vision 2020. For this reason both documents will be regularly reviewed, updated and widely distributed throughout the entire European waterborne industry, as a part of the WATERBORNE TP process.

Consensus is a major asset and a pre-requisite for the success of our strategy. In particular we make sure that the main elements of such strategy, the Vision 2020 and the SRA, are widely supported.

The guiding principles for the organisation structure of the waterborne technology platform have been:

  • be transparent
  • be representative
  • be effective
Considering the different stakeholders of the waterborne sector and the thousands of companies shaping their industry, a consensus building by individual companies, institutes etc. would have been unmanageable. Consequently WATERBORNE TP has been built basing on the stakeholders European associations. These associations have the high responsibility to organize and encourage the participation of their individual members in the different WATERBORNE TP tasks, working groups and discussions as well as to guarantee their members high level commitment.

Experts from the individual companies, institutes etc of the stakeholders have specific forums: the (thematic) Working Groups. The conclusions of the Working Groups are discussed and transformed into R & D policy proposals and action plans within the Support Group, into which all stakeholder associations, the member states (en bloc) and the commission services send their representatives. In order to facilitate an easier consensus among the 25 member states, they have their own Mirror Group, which sends 2-3 representatives into the Support Group. The final approvals and commitments are made by the annual General Assembly, which is formed by high level representatives of the industry and all other stakeholders.

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