Today, the Transport Committee of the European Parliament will have a first exchange of view on the Commission Proposal for a Port Regulation, which was published on 23 May.
The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) acknowledges that the Commission proposal addresses some important conditions for ensuring a level playing field:
- by tackling the transparency of financing in ports,
- by recognising the freedom to provide port services
- by considering the setting of charges and the minimum requirements for port services as important tools of port management.
But the Commission proposal disappoints, since it partly undermines those principles:
- by intervening in the commercial freedom of ports and port authorities to vary charges according to the port management’s economic strategy;
- by prescribing how ports and port authorities should deal with their clients;
- by imposing additional administrative burden to ports which are not competing at the European scene;
- by creating an independent supervisory body.
In that overall context, ESPO and its members cannot accept the regulation proposal as it stands.
“We welcome the fact that the Commission is considering European ports as engines for growth. European ports are facing enormous challenges: growing volumes, ever-increasing ships, further globalisation, increasing societal and environmental pressure. They need a policy that empowers them to meet these challenges, not rules that create additional burden for ports without real benefit for the port industry or the users. We hope European policy makers understand our concerns and want to work with us in view of obtaining a framework that means a step forward for every single port in Europe”, says Isabelle Ryckbost, ESPO’s Secretary General.
ESPO fears that the Commission proposal in its current form will hamper well performing ports:
- The diversity of the European port sector makes it impossible to frame all ports and their managing bodies within one stringent legal framework, without giving in on their specificity and on the particular role ports are playing for their national and regional economy. Differences in size, geographical situation, governance, tasks, financial situation, etc. makes it very difficult to develop a set of rules that goes further than guiding principles.
- Moreover, by restricting the commercial freedom of EU port authorities and interfering in port-related governance competences, the Regulation proposal could hamper the necessary transition of European port authorities towards dynamic port developers and worsen the position of ports which are already high performing.
Finally, European ports do not see the port regulation as thé instrument that will improve the competitiveness of ports. There are other, more important, factors that can enhance the level playing field in the port sector that need to be tackled: internal market for maritime transport, environmental rules affecting transport patterns and modes, unfair competition with third neighbouring countries, and burdensome customs procedures.
ESPO’s full response to the proposed Port Regulation can be found here: porto 30 09 2013