Shortsea shipping, as defined by the European Union, involves the movement of cargo and passengers by sea between ports situated in geographical Europe or between those ports and ports situated in non-European countries having a coastline on the enclosed seas bordering Europe.
Shortsea shipping as a transport mode is one of the most environmentally friendly options available to transport passengers and commodities across relatively short maritime distances. As an island nation, shipping and the movement of goods by sea is vitally important to the Irish Economy. Figures released by SEMRU (Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit) state that 92% of the total volume of exports and imports to the Republic of Ireland are carried by sea. Most goods are shipped as unitized cargo through Irish ports, the bulk of imports are trans-shipped through larger European ports into Ireland.
The Irish Maritime Development Office is the designated Shortsea Promotion Centre in Ireland for shortsea shipping in line with EU policy and has been a member of the European Shortsea Network (ESN) since March 2001.
The European Shortsea Network brings together a high level of pan-European expertise in the Shortsea shipping and logistics sectors. Member's shared experiences at a national level allow for a multifaceted approach to problem solving and seeking innovative ways to progress common policy objectives. The growing strength and effectiveness of the shortsea network coincides with a renewed and prominent focus at European level on the role of shortsea shipping and its strategic importance to European Community members. There are 23 members of the ESN. Whilst the ESN does not have an official board, it has a chairman who co-ordinates the work of the ESN. The ESN portal features a unique database search facility, which can name and list pan-European liner services and bulk services on a port-to-port basis or country-to-country basis. A comprehensive overview of shortsea services in Europe is available through the ESN website. Information on European shortsea maritime connections and schedules can be accessed available through the Shortsea Schedules site which is collated by members of the Norwegian Shortsea promotion centre.