The major players in the waterborne transport sector in Europe have begun to work towards a common strategic vision for the future research needs of this sector. The Waterborne Transport Technology Platform will involve industry, national authorities, regulatory bodies, research centres and universities and will seek to stimulate more effective public and private investment in research and development and improve the coherence of research activities at European, national, regional and local level. Technology platforms have been an innovation in EU research policy. They bring together all interested parties in a particular sector, or areas. These areas are chosen for their strategic importance or their potential contribution to the European Unionís goals of knowledge-based growth, competitiveness and employment.
The maritime sector is big business - 90% of the EUís external trade and 40% of its internal trade is transported by sea. Europe is a world leader in the design, manufacture and production of specialist, complex high technology vessels such as cruise liners and liquefied natural gas tankers. However, it faces increasing competitions from East Asia with regard to high volume ship production. In order for Europeís shipping industry to survive, it must continue to innovate. Better coordination of research across Europe will help to cement Europeís position as an environmentally responsible, safe operator and manufacturer. European research in the maritime sector already addresses important issues such as preventing maritime oil spills and improving the evacuation of passengers in the event of accidents, as well as more basic research into hydrodynamics, which can lead to more energy efficiency in the marine transport sector. In the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, Ä153 million has so far been made available for maritime transport research.