BSSSC Annual Conference 2019: Sustainable Maritime Economy

“Sustainable Maritime Economy – BSSSC regions shaping the future of the Blue economy in the Baltic Sea Region” was the topic when about 130 participants from the Baltic Sea Region gathered for the 27th BSSSC Annual Conference in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The Annual Conference began with welcoming words by Vytautas Grubliauskas, Mayor of Klaipėda City, stressing the importance of the blue economy for the maritime city of Klaipeda. He was followed by Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Vytautas Naudužas, Ambassador at large, who emphasized the need to a larger extent implementing the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The third speaker, Bernd Hemingway, Deputy Director General, Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) emphasized the good cooperation between BSSSC and CBSS to implement policies on all levels, especially highlighting the work on youth and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

– The BSSSC is an important and reliable partner in the field of youth, and we are thankful for the extraordinary initiative to create a youth  platform coordinated by the CBSS Secretariat, which was also discussed in both formats mentioned, said Mr. Hemningway.

The Annual Conference was officially opened by BSSSC Chairman Roger Ryberg ringing the BSSSC bell. Seeing this is the last Annual Conference of the Norwegian Chairmanship of the BSSSC, Mr. Ryberg took the opportunity to reflect on the most important issues through the last two and a half years. Mr. Ryberg highlighted the continuous lobbying to protect the interest of the regions (especially considering cohesion policy and funding mechanisms), the work on youth integration and the promotion of the implementation of the SDGs.

Future of the EUSBSR

One of the issues discussed at the Annual Conference was the future of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Helena Tuuri, Chair of the National Coordinator Group, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), Finland, was invited to introduce the priorities of the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU, and the revision of the EUSBSR. She said there are four areas where the strategy should be improved.

1. There is not enough political visibility and support.

2. The document is too long (176 pages) with 12 sub-objectives, 13 Policy Areas and 4 Horizontal Areas – simplification is needed.

3. Governance in general unclear and complicated – it is based on strict interpretation of the original 3 ’Nos’ (no budget line, no new instructions, no new legislation)

4. There are no real indicators included in the Policy areas/Horizontal actions, meaning the strategy is difficult to measure

She said, however, that the strategy is working well in many sectors, that there have been concrete results and that there is a multi-level action and commitment to the strategy. The timetable for updating the strategy is pressured by the multi-annual financial framework discussions of the EU and that the new strategy would most probably be in place in the beginning of 2020.

A sustainable future for the Baltic Sea

Ms. Tuuri joined the following panel debate alongside Elena Kolosova (Interreg BSR Programme), Angela Schultz-Zehden (Submariner network), Ossi Savolainen (Helsinki – Uusimaa Region/BSSSC Board member) and Darius Daunys (Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation of Klaipėda University). In the debate they discussed the Blue economy impact on the Baltic Sea Region. Mr. Savolainen emphasised simplicity and a clearer vision to reach a sustainable BSR.

– We need a common vision and a common mission, and then the will to reach it. There are too many complicated strategies and solutions.  What are the main challenges to achieve clean shipping, green shipping and blue growth?

Mr. Daunys said that the change is happening, but not fast enough.

– We have the technology for clean shipping, but it will take thirty years to change the fleet. The fast transfer of technologies from these nice ideas. We need to upscale from small scale to large scale much faster.

Ms. Schultz-Zehden said that a big challenge is reporting and monitoring.

– The main challenge we see is that we talk about sustainability, but how to monitor it. First how to monitor it. Environmental monitoring. We need to agree on common standards.

The discussion ended with what kind of body could coordinate and facilitate all the best practices and technologies in the BSR to bring together all the good ideas and best practices.

Wide variety of parallel sessions

The Annual Conference had several parallel sessions. The participants could choose from the following workshops: “Shaping the future of shipping», «Coastal and Maritime tourism role in the Blue economy sector of the BSR», «Marine litter: towards a cleaner Baltic Sea», «LNG Value Chain for Clean Shipping», «Green Ports and Blue Growth», «Potential of maritime cultural heritage (MCH) for Blue Economy», «Blue economy as a driver for growth and sustainability of coastal regions». You may read more about the different sessions in the programme. There you may also download the presentations. Following the hashtag #BSSSC2019 you may also see pictures and quotes from the different sessions.

Final day

On the last day the participants witnessed an interesting discussion bringing together the youth from the youth event held the days before the Annual Conference with experts on blue economy. The youths wanted to learn how to get involved. Tom Kleppestö, CEO Shipping & Offshore Network, Norway said: “pick up the phone and call someone. Be daring and talk to them». Whilst Aaron Vuola, HELCOM Project Coordinator encouraged them to study what is needed in the sector you want to work in. On the following question on how to be more specific he replied, «Start taking classes in Geographical Information Systems”.

Following the youths, Ričardas Gaurys, European Commission representation in Lithuania, was invited to present the political guidelines for the next EC 2019-2024. It is the following:

  1. European green deal
  2. An economy that works for people
  3. A Europe fit for the digital age
  4. Protecting our European way of life
  5. A stronger Europe in the world
  6. A new push for European democracy

You may read more about the next European Commissions priorities here.

In the last session Ms. Ann Irene Sæternes presented the BSSSC Annual Conference Resolution. It is a document summarising the main viewpoints of the BSSSC Board from a range of issues from transport to sustainability. Please read it here.

The Annual Conference ended with the traditional BSSSC bell given from Roger Ryberg, Buskerud County Norway and Chairman of the BSSSC, to Grzegorz Grzelak, Deputy President of the Pomorskie Regional Assembly, Poland representing the next Chairmanship.

The BSSSC Chairman and Secretariat would like to thank the hosts, Association of Klaipeda region, all speakers and panellists and all participants for making such a fruitful and memorable conference.

The next year’s Annual Conference will be in Kaliningrad, Russia in September 2020.


Source: BSSSC webpage

Photos by A. Pelakauskas

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