The EU Blue Economy Report 2019

The European Commission has recently published its second Blue Economy Report (2019) which describes the scope and size of the EU blue economy. It provides an overview of the most recent trends in several socioeconomic indicators and analyses the drivers behind such trends. The aim is to support policymakers and stakeholders in the quest for a sustainable development of oceans, sea and coastal resources.

Blue economy is a driving force for economic growth, innovation and employment. The EUs blue economy continues to grow, and high growth rates can be observed in traditional and emerging sectors. The report addresses both, and looks at their contribution to the blue economy in terms of employment and gross value added (GVA).

The established sectors contribution to the blue economy

  • Extraction and commercialisation of marine living resources 
    14% of jobs, 12% GVA, 8.6 bn. in profits
  • Marine extraction of minerals, oil and gas 
    4% of jobs, 13% GVA, 22.8 bn. in profits
  • Maritime transport 
    6% of jobs, 12% GVA, 11.9 bn. in profits
  • Port activities 
    14% jobs, 19% GVA, 34.4 bn. in profits
  • Shipbuilding and repair 
    8% of jobs, 8% GVA, 3.6 bn. in profits

The established sectors directly employed over 4 million people in 2017, which is a 14 % increase compared to 2014. Fisheries and extraction of marine living resources are growing steadily, while shipbuilding and maritime transport have been severely affected by the 2009 economic crisis and continues to face difficulties. The oil and gas industries have been affected by low fuel prices and dwindling reserves, leading to a decrease in the economic performance, employment and investments.

Emerging and innovative sectors

  • Blue bio economy
  • Blue energy (offshore wind, wave and tidal)
  • Desalination
  • Marine minerals

In the absence of economic indicators such as those used for the established sectors, alternative indicators such as output and production capacity, number of licenses, etc. have been used.

Offshore wind is the most established and fast-growing sector, and has outgrown its onshore counterpart. Employment is increasing significantly and is estimated at 210 000 for 2018. The ocean energy sector (wave and tidal) is still relatively small and has approximately 2,250 employees. It is still a costly sector to invest in, but an increased commitment has been observed in recent years. 

The blue bio economy sector is very fragmented, but biological resources are increasingly being used in new ways. The sector thus has a potential to contribute to economic growth and to provide new jobs. Regarding marine minerals, the costs are still estimated to be very high and the potential environmental impact is unknown and needs further framing. However, with appropriate technology and environmental-friendly practices, the sector has great potential and could help ensuring the future supply of raw materials. The desalination sector also has good potential. It is expected to grow in the next few years, and could become a key sector in the member states that are already experiencing water shortages.

Member states contribution to the blue economy: the North Sea Region

  • Denmark
    117 000 jobs, €9.8 bn. GVA. Coastal tourism dominates the blue economy, followed by maritime transport and oil and gas. The share of employment has increased by 45% compared to 2009, while GVA has slightly decreased.
  • France
    367 5000 jobs, €20.2 bn. GVA. Coastal tourism is the main contributor to the blue economy, followed by port activities and marine living resources. GVA and employment have decreased since 2009.
  • Germany
    406 700 jobs, 23 bn. GVA. The blue economy is dominated by ports, warehousing, and water projects, followed by maritime transport. The share of employment has remained steady between 2009 and 2018, while the GVA has showed large variability during the same period.
  • Netherlands
    127 800 jobs, €10.3 bn. GVA. The main contributors to the blue economy are ports, warehousing and water projects and marine extraction of minerals oil and gas. The GVA has decreased by 5% since 2009, while the share of national employment grew by 7%.
  • UK
    516 200 jobs, 36.1 bn. GVA. The offshore oil sector dominates the blue economy, followed by coastal tourism. The GVA increased by 11% since 2009, while employment has remained stable.

The report is based on data from Eurostat, the member states, the European System of Statistics, and the EU Data Collection Framework. The content of this second edition is more extensive than the previous one, and new elements have been included. For the first time, the report comprises an overview of the EU sea basins. It also includes a new chapter on natural capital and ecosystem services which highlights the importance of maintaining the ocean system in good health, in addition to several case studies.

By Martine Farstad