The 12th Implementation Meeting of the China-EU Maritime Transport Agreement, hosted by the Polish government, was held in Szczecin, Poland from 21 to 23 September. Official delegations consisted of representatives of the Chinese Ministry of Transport, the Directorate-General for Transport and Mobility (DG Move) of the European Commission and EU Member States. The Chinese and European shipping industries were represented by the China Shipowners’ Association and ECSA.
“These annual meetings between the world’s biggest maritime powers are not only extremely useful for both the EU and Chinese maritime administrations but also for the respective shipping industries they regulate” said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven and added: “They offer a good overview of the latest maritime policy developments and provide a stable and regular platform, which fosters exchanges and discussions on issues raised by the shipping industry”.
Commenting on the merits of the EU-China maritime dialogue, Lieselot Marinus, Director of International Affairs at ECSA, said: “The implementation meetings of this maritime agreement, the first and only of its kind concluded between the EU and another major maritime power, are a model for the type of cooperation we would like to see established with other key partners of the EU.’
Besides discussing trade issues, the platform also provides the opportunity to exchange views on regulatory issues and allows for streamlining opinions and positions in the spirit of working towards global solutions at the level of the IMO.
One of the ECSA priority issues addressed during the meeting is the international relay of ships and more concretely the extension of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone to five more ports. In these free trade zones, Chinese controlled ships can carry cargo between Chinese ports not only when flying the Chinese flag but also a foreign flag. EU shipowners are concerned by this development, as this regime places EU companies at a further disadvantage vis-a-vis Chinese companies, compared to the previous situation where ships carrying cargo between Chinese ports had to be both Chinese-owned and Chinese-flagged. This rule also diverges from the international practice of having the flag rather than the nationality of the shipowner determine market access.
The China-EU Maritime Transport Agreement was concluded in 2002 and entered into force in 2008 with the objective of improving the conditions under which maritime transport operations are carried out. The agreement illustrates the strong relations in the maritime field between the EU and China. It is based on the principles of freedom to provide maritime transport services, free access to cargoes and cross trades, access to and non-discriminatory treatment in the use of ports and auxiliary services as well as regarding commercial presence. It also provides for enhanced cooperation on maritime policy. Implementation meetings alternate between China and the EU. The 13th implementation meeting will be held in China in Autumn 2016.