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European Maritime Day
News blog1 June 2023Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries3 min read

European Maritime Day – bienvenue à Brest!

The atmosphere in Brest is electric. The Brest Expo, lightened up in blue and white for the occasion, is immersed in a non-stop buzz of voices in the background. The European Maritime community has gathered for two days in this French coastal city, whose maritime heritage is woven into its history.

'Salted water runs in our veins' said the French – and Breton - Ambassador for the Poles and Oceans Olivier Poivre d'Arvor, during the closing session.

Located at the tip of Brittany, between land and sea, the city lies on the major international maritime routes of the Atlantic coast. The location couldn't be more appropriate to assess progresses and discuss the challenges ahead for our ocean economy.

More than 1600 participants took part in the European Maritime Day (EMD). EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius opened the event with a vibrant call for collaboration:

If we combine our efforts, we can bring a better life for our coastal communities in Brittany, France and across Europe. Let’s harness the power of collaboration and innovation for a prosperous future.

The use of marine space, the energy transition and blue skills were high on this edition’s agenda.

The energy transition is crucial to meet the goal of a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050. Research is progressing to enable us to achieve the objectives set out in the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy. Jean-François Filipot, Research Director at France Energies Marines, explained us the potential of floating offshore wind turbines, and how their project is helping harness it:

Arcwind is a large project demonstrating the possible deployment of this technology in the Atlantic area. EU funds helped to connect industry and academia, making them work together.

Offshore wind parks can be put to multiple uses. Cross-cutting maritime spatial planning, aquaculture and offshore energy production, the pioneering EU-funded Ultfarms Project promotes the multi-use of ocean space, combining the blue farming of low-trophic species (like seaweed and molluscs) within offshore wind parks. This Mission Ocean project, which is running in the North and Baltic Seas, came to Brest well prepared. With seaweed crackers to giveaway, Ultfarms has tempted our colleagues, who confirmed that they were absolutely delicious.

Algae are playing an increasingly important role in the sustainable blue economy. And not just that - they are making their way to our tables too! Hosted at the Cinea (European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency) stand,  Sylvain Huchette from France Haliotis offered a tasting of farmed seaweed and abalone, a very tasty mollusc. While enjoying a delicious algae tartare and nori-flavoured chips, we learned about the results of the EU-funded project Aquavitae, which is promoting the aquaculture of low-trophic species in the Atlantic Ocean. Aquavitae has really tested our seafood knowledge with its new boardgame – a perfect opportunity for a deep-dive into the word of blue farming!

Sailing across the EMD exhibition and pitching stage, we met Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz, Co-founder and COO at bound4blue. She explained that reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping sector is crucial, and we need solutions now:

The suction sail we developed provides propelling force to the ship, helping reduce fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. 

Making shipping green is one of many challenges and ensuring it's not conflicting with other activities at sea is another. EU-funded projects on maritime spatial planning brought an interactive game to challenge the event's participants to make decisions for the best use of maritime space. We can guarantee that it was a difficult game to play!

Between the workshops, high-level panels, pitching sessions, and occasional chats at the exhibition area, the two-day event slowly came to an end. At sunset, while a cable car took us across the port of Brest, we couldn't help but reflect on the power of this shared journey. Another edition is over, but its buzzing energy, inspiring words, the great projects will stay with us until the wave of EMD comes to shore for the next year's edition in Svendborg, in Denmark.