Ports: the adoption of the regulation on port services is closer

On 27 June 2016, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports (the “proposal”), which was put forward by the European Commission in May 2013, as the main pillar of a broader strategy to strengthen the port sector at EU level.

The objective of the proposal is to strengthen the European port sector by attracting new investment and improving the efficiency of port operations for the benefit of Europe’s trade, economy and global positioning. The European Union is highly dependent on seaports for trade with the rest of the world and within its Internal Market. Indeed 75% of extra-EU goods and 37% of the intra-EU freight traffic are shipped through European ports.

In this context the proposal is aimed at:

  • guarantying financial transparency and an optimal use of resources: new rules will ensure transparency with regard to the charging of port infrastructure and the use of public funds, in order to give investors more confidence, ensure fair competition between ports and stimulate public investment;
  • ensuring high quality services at European ports, by defining minimum requirements such as the professional qualifications of the personnel and the equipment needed to operate safely. In addition, the proposal specifies the conditions under which public service obligations, such as ensuring affordable and permanently available port service may be applied, in order to make access to the market for port services easier and more transparent;
  • improving the governance of European ports, which will have more autonomy, for example, to define their infrastructure charges according to their commercial and investment strategies. Port users and stakeholders will be consulted on important decisions impacting the port activities. Moreover, a mechanism to resolve disputes will be set up, so as to avoid lengthy and costly litigation procedures.

The agreement is expected to be formally endorsed and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union by the end of 2016.