Europe's maritime industry is a world leader, providing seafaring jobs for 345,455 people. Some 30% of merchant vessels are registered in EU Member States, whilst in terms of gross tonnage, the EU accounts for 19.2% of the global fleet. Fishing and the processing of fish products provide jobs for more than 350,000 people. However, globalisation, at the present time of crisis, has posed a serious challenge for jobs and competitiveness in the maritime sector, inevitably affecting various aspects of employment in terms of quality and quantity of jobs.
The EESC endorses the proposal for a Directive aimed at improving the level of protection of rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and ensuring a level playing field for competition at EU level.
The EESC thinks that the proposed Directive is a step in the right direction to encourage young people to take up professions in the maritime and fishery sectors and make seafaring careers viable, as it will make these sectors more attractive and, in terms of labour rights, place them on an equal footing with shore-based occupations.
Nevertheless, the EESC notes that the proposed directive alone will not suffice to make the maritime sector more attractive. It will have to be accompanied by measures and initiatives already put forward by the EESC in the areas of training, education, research, health and safety promotion, entrepreneurship and innovation leading to the provision of safe, stable and competitive services of a high quality.
The EESC points to the need to ensure a level playing field within the EU but also internationally, given the international nature of maritime activities and competition, and stresses the importance of actively discouraging social dumping and unfair competition.