When in 2013 the European Commission initially proposed a Regulation on Market access to port services and financial transparency of ports, FEPORT, the European organization which represents the interests of the terminal operators and stevedoring companies located out of the seaports of the European Union expressed its skepticism about the real added value of the text. Indeed, while supporting the objectives of the regulation (freedom to provide services, financial transparency of public funding and encouraging private sector investment in ports), port operators strongly reaffirmed that cargo handling was already a competitive industry.
The ease by which shipping lines and shippers change ports of call, as demonstrated by a myriad of examples; clearly demonstrate that inter-port competition is a major, if not the main, driver imposing fierce competitive pressure on the European cargo handling sector in ports.
In most European ports, terminal operators’ customers and clients are directly benefiting from modern terminals with new services and efficient hinterland connections.
Acknowledging the competitive character of the cargo handling industry, Commission, Parliament and since the beginning of the Italian Presidency last July 2014, Council, have confirmed that the rules regarding market access will not apply to cargo handling.
FEPORT, supports their decision and strongly recommends that the other articles of the Port Regulation remain coherent with the principles included in the chapter regarding market access avoiding thus risks of misinterpretation.
It is also essential that future discussions between the Commission and the co-legislators take into account the initial objectives of the text which were among others to protect port operators from potential legal uncertainties and excessive administrative burdens.
FEPORT would like to remind that port activities contribute directly to employment, inward investment and EU GDP growth. It is therefore absolutely vital that the text that will emerge from discussions between co-legislators will not annihilate the terminal operators’efforts to remain performant and competitive.
FEPORT is looking forward to continuing its cooperation with Commission, Parliament and Council to the benefit of the competitiveness of EU cargo handling activities.