Since June 9th, Genoa has been the capital of European private port operators. FEPORT, the European organization which represents the interests of the terminal operators and stevedoring companies located out of the seaports of the
European Union has indeed been holding all its committees’ and General Assembly meetings in the Ligurian city.
FEPORT members have been discussing the latest EU related policy developments as well as strategic issues for the cargo handling industry.
Intra port and inter port competition has been a recurrent topic for institutional stakeholders these last years. In this respect, private port operators’ members of FEPORT
wish to highlight the following facts:
The ease by which shipping lines and shippers change ports of call clearly demonstrates that inter-port competition is a major driver imposing fierce competitive and pressure on the European cargo handling sector. There is also strong competition between terminal operators based in the different European ports which has been acknowledged both by DG Competition and the OECD in different studies and reports.
In the majority of the EU ports, intra port competition is also a reality. There are at least
two providers in most ports and when it is not the case, it is often because volumes of
cargo do not justify it.
Regarding investment in European ports, FEPORT wishes to remind that since many
years, private port operators are investing to adapt to the needs of their customers thus
contributing to the modernization of European ports. They are also involved or ready to
be involved in PPPs concerning ports and/or hinterland connections to ports.
Over the last ten years, private port operators have invested 40 Billion Euros in
equipment. Shippers as well as shipowners are directly benefiting from the continuous
modernization of port terminals.
Given the announced arrival on the market of other mega ships that requires a serious
upgrading of equipment, port and hinterland infrastructure, more efforts from private
port operators are expected. FEPORT members are willing and ready to re-invest as long
as the development of port projects is smooth, the contracting and implementing
procedures are clear, fair and transparent and their investments recouped.
Transparency in European ports is a must, among others, in terms of charging. The same
rules and requirements in terms of transparency applicable to private port operators
should also be applicable to Public Port Authorities.
FEPORT also relies on European institutions’ vigilance to make sure that existing private
cargo handling companies do not face unfair competition from new commercial entities
established by Public Port Authorities.
The private cargo handling sector in Europe employs more than 220 000 port workers
and provides them with constant training and retraining. This is allowing the industry to
remain competitive as employees are acquiring new skills needed to cope with
technological innovation concerning equipment. Continuous training also contributes to
improve terminal safety to the benefit of port workers.
“In the coming months, ports will be back again on the agenda of the TRAN Committee of
the European Parliament which will have to give its views about the new report on the Port
Services Regulation. We are looking forward to cooperating with the European Parliament
so as to reach agreement on a text including some key principles aiming at attracting
sustainable investment in ports and encouraging transparency and fair competition.
We hope that, the coming discussions will also give us an opportunity to get rid of some
persistent clichés and wrong assumptions concerning European ports” says FEPORT’s
President, Gunther Bonz.
Ports involve a whole range of stakeholders. Public Port Authorities are not the only
players in ports. Cargo handling activities performed by private port operators are also
vital for ports as they enable upstream and downstream industries to create value and
While referring to competition in European ports and the competitiveness of the cargo
handling sector, FEPORT’s President, Gunther Bonz states “European private port
operators are already involved in global competition. They are accommodating thousands
of ships each year and some of those ships are among the biggest ones in the world”.
Private port operators are facing increasing market power of shipping lines as a result of
alliances. They also have to take into account contradictory needs and expectations of key
stakeholders: the needs of shipping lines which request new berths to accommodate big
ships and the challenging positions not to say opposition of some cities’ and NGOs’ to
projects aiming at expanding terminals.
Last but not least, private port operators are complying with national and EU Legislations –
thus bearing costs – that are not applicable to terminal operators outside the EU. This
important fact is often forgotten by EU legislators.
Private terminal operators are facing big challenges but our main message is the
following: we are competitive, we want to remain competitive and we are acting to remain
competitive. We hope to have the support of EU institutions to reach our objective”.