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New Ports Regulation Proposal to Emerge Next Week

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dimitrostheologitisIf no major hiccups occur, the European Commission will adopt its new port regulation proposal and ports policy communication a week from now.

The regulation proposal would largely leave cargo handling and passenger services untouched. Senior officials of DG Move confirmed this yesterday during a conference on port labour in the EU, held in Ghent at the initiative of Portius, an international port law centre founded by professor Eric Van Hooydonk.

Dimitrios Theologitis, Head of the Ports Policy Unit at DG Move(pictured)  informed participants that the regulation proposal would essentially seek to establish common rules on market access to port services and financial transparency. The market access chapter would however not apply to cargo handling and passenger services. These services would be covered by forthcoming legislation on concessions and case law. The regulation proposal would not deal with dock labour either, this would be left to social partners in the context of the EU social dialogue committee on ports, which is scheduled to start its work on 19 June.

“The new legislation would fundamentally affect port authorities and port services other than cargo handling and passengers”, said ESPO Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven at the conference, “I wonder whether this is proportional. We regret that the Commission is not overall opting for a soft law approach, covering all services, as we have consistently advocated. I can at this stage not say how we will formally react to the new proposal, that depends very much on the concrete wording of what comes out next week. It is however clear that our members are worried.” The General Assembly of ESPO is set to adopt a first formal reaction on 29 May, prior to the ESPO Conference in Varna, where the first discussion on the new proposal will be held, in the presence of Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas.

Yesterday’s port labour conference was organised to present the results of the first major fact-finding study ever made in the EU on the organisation of port labour. Portius undertook this work on behalf of the European Commission, as part of the review process that preceded the new ports policy proposals. The draft final report, which counts over 1400 pages, gives for each of the 22 maritime Member States of the EU a detailed analysis of how the port labour market is organised. It also raises issues on health and safety as well as training and qualifications. One of the main findings of the study is that dock labour is still one of the most dangerous professions in Europe, but also one where most market restrictions occur. The Commission invited social partners and other stakeholders to give factual comments on the draft final report within two months from now, after which the study will become official.

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