The EU Blue Economy Report 2020

The EU Blue Economy Report 2020 provides an overview of the performance of the EU economic sectors related to oceans and the coastal environment. The report highlights the important role of blue sectors when it comes to the economic recovery after Covid-19, and in achieving the goals set out in the European Green Deal.

The report examines both the established sectors as well as emerging and innovative sectors, and looks at their their contribution to the blue economy in terms of employment and gross value added (GVA). For the first time, it also addresses the environmental dimension of the blue economy, thereby contributing to achieving environmental objectives. In addition, the report looks at the economic value of several ecosystem services provided by the ocean, including habitats for marine life and carbon sequestration.

The EU blue economy had a turnover of  €750 billion in 2018, and is a driving force for economic growth, innovation and employment. Although several sectors, and in particular coastal tourism and aquaculture, are severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the blue economy as a whole presents a great potential in terms of its contribution to a green recovery.

The established sectors contribution to the blue economy:

  • Marine living resources
    11,5% of jobs, 9,6% of GVA, €8.4 billion in profits
  • Marine non-living resources
    1% of jobs, 9% of GVA, €14.9 bn in profits

  • Marine Renewable energy
    0.1%of jobs, 0.5% of GVA, €850 million in profits
  • Port activities
    11% of jobs, 16 % of GVA , €14.6 bn in profits
  • Shipbuilding and repair
    6% of jobs, 8 % of GVA, €4.7 bn in profits
  • Maritime transport
    8% of jobs, 16% of GVA, €18.8 in profits
  • Coastal tourism
    62% of jobs, 41 % of GVA, €32.3 in profits

The established sectors directly employed close to 5 million people in 2018, which is an increase of 11.6% compared to 2017. This increase is mainly driven bythe coastal tourism sector, but the offshore wind energy sector is also an important contributor. Europe is the world leader in offshore wind energy, with over 90% of the world’s total installed capacity. The EU has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 22.1 GW, with the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium as the main producers.

Emerging and innovative sectors

  • Marine renewable energy (i.e. Ocean energy, floating solar energy and offshore hydrogen generation)
  • Wave and tidal energy
  • Blue bioeconomy and bio-technology
  • Marine minerals
  • Desalination,
  • Maritime defense
  • Submarine cables

The emerging sectors have great potential, but still face several challenges and constraints, such as the complexity of the regulatory and administrative procedures, the lack of European origin certification and harmonization of market requirements, the need for funding mechanisms, and consumer’s awareness and acceptance.

Floating offshore wind is a growing rapidly, and the EU had a total installed capacity of 45 MW in 2019. The EU Joint Research service estimates the technical potential for floating offshore wind in Europe with about 4 540 GW, of which 3 000 GW would be located in deep sea locations (water depth between 100 m and 1 000 m). Wave and tidal energy also have vast potential, but the development of ocean energy technologies is still primarily at the R&D stage. While tidal energy concepts have achieved considerable progress between 2016 and 2019, wave energy technologies are lagging behind tidal energy in terms of performance. Floating solar photovoltaic (FPV) installations still need to overcome several challenges in order to facilitate deployment,  and the same goes for hydrogen generated offshore.

The report also includes subsea cables for the first time due to the economic importance. Subsea cables play a crucial role in power transmission and global communications, and channel more than 99 % of international data transfer and communication. The cables are normally designed to last 25 years, and as a large number of the European submarine cables were laid in the early 2000s or before, more than 100 cables with a length above 275000 Km needs to be replaced in the next few years.

The report is based on data from Eurostat, the member states, the European System of Statistics, and the EU Data Collection Framework.

By Anna Lygre Solvang