In 1974, the European Commission set up a Port Working Group, consisting of port authority representatives from Europe’s major ports. Early 1993, the European Sea Ports Organisation was born out of this working group, as an independent lobby for seaport interests. Founding Chairman was the late Ferdinand Suykens, former director-general of the Port of Antwerp. During its initial years of existence, the organisation established itself in Brussels, focusing on a variety of policy and technical issues. Significant initiatives were the publication of the first Environmental Code of Practice in 1994 and the establishment of EcoPorts a few years later.
The debate on the European Commission’s ports package, which was issued in 2001, marked a kind of ‘coming of age’ period for ESPO. It made members reflect and become more conscious about their role as port authorities and it strengthened the internal cohesion of the organisation.
In 2009 ESPO set up a joint office with EFIP, the European Federation of Inland Ports.
Based in Brussels, the European Sea Ports Organisation ensures that seaports have a clear voice in the European Union. ESPO represents the common interests and promotes the common views and values of its members to the European institutions and its policy makers.
Our mission is to influence public policy in the European Union in order to achieve a safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable European port sector, operating as a key element of a transport industry where free and undistorted market conditions prevail, as far as practicable.
ESPO membership consists of port authorities, port administrations and port associations of the seaports of the European Union and Norway. The organisation is furthermore open to observer members from countries neighbouring the EU (Albania, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, Ukraine and United Kingdom).
The membership structure is organised on national level and finds its reflection in the General Assembly of the organisation where each member country has three official delegates with voting rights (and in some instance official proxies) and neighbouring countries have one observer delegate each. Each member country also has a formal delegate in the Executive Committee, which is the daily policy-making body of the organisation.
Chair and Vice-Chairmen
The General Assembly elects a Chair and two Vice-Chairs for a mandate of two years. For the period 2022 – 2024 these are:
The following national port associations and port administrations are members of ESPO: Bulgarian Ports Infrastructure Company, Croatian Port Authorities Association, Cyprus Ports Authority, Danish Ports, Finnish Port Association, Union des Ports de France (UPF), Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME), Irish Ports Association, Associazione Porti Italiani (Assoporti), Transport Malta, Norwegian Ports, Association Ports of Portugal (APP), Administraţia Porturilor Maritime S.A. Constanţa, Puertos del Estado, Ports of Sweden. The following port associations and port administrations are observer at ESPO: Associated Icelandic Ports, Israel Ports Company (AIP), British Ports Association / UK Major Ports Group, Ports of Montenegro and State Enterprise “Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority”.
The following members countries are represented by their ports directly: Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. The following observer member country is represented by its port directly: Albania.
The membership structure is organised on national level. Each member country has three official delegates with voting rights in the General Assembly. Neighbouring countries have one observer delegate each.
Each member country also has a formal delegate in the Executive Committee, which is the daily policy-making body of the organisation. The General Assembly elects a Chairman and two Vice-Chairs for a mandate of two years.
Technical expertise and advisory input comes from the technical committees and networks on topics as diverse as port governance and management, intermodal transport, logistics and industry, sustainable development, marine affairs, trade facilitation, customs and security, economic analysis and statistics, cruise and passenger port issues, labour and operations and legal issues. These specialised committees and networks are made up of and chaired by experts from the member ports and are co-ordinated by ESPO staff.
The recommendations of the technical committees are submitted to ESPO’s Executive Committee which takes the final decision.
The ESPO Technical Committees and Networks are chaired by the following persons:
You can find a list of the ESPO Networks and the allocation of subject fields to the Technical Committees here.
ESPO’s Permanent Secretariat in Brussels ensures the communication between the European institutions and the ports throughout Europe and is responsible for the general management of the organisation.