Financial transparency rules for European ports

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The fees and funding that EU ports get from shipping lines and governments should become clearer thanks to new rules backed by MEPs on Wednesday.

“After 15 years of discussion about European ports policy, we have finally found an agreement: existing port management models can be maintained and, for the first time, there is an emphasis on good working conditions, which are a major part of the competitiveness of ports and are non-negotiable for us”, said rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, DE).

“Financial transparency is at the core of the agreement, which should facilitate the work of the Commission on a coherent state aid regime and trigger investments into ports”, he added.

The lack of clear rules on public funding of port infrastructure and charges for using it holds back investment in ports, says the EU Commission. The new rules aim to make EU ports more efficient and attractive to investors.

These rules apply to over 300 EU seaports in the trans-European transport network.

They include a requirement for ports to show clearly in their accounting systems the public funds they have received and to improve transparency in the way port services and infrastructure charges are set. EU member states would also have to ensure that an effective procedure is in place to handle complaints.

To deliver high quality services, the rules include new requirements for port service providers to ensure that employees receive the necessary training, with particular emphasis on health and safety. These training requirements should also be regularly updated to meet the challenges of technological innovation.

The regulation does not impose a specific management model for ports. However, it does lay down conditions if they wish to set minimum requirements for services such as towage, mooring, bunkering and the collection of ship-generated waste, or to restrict the number of providers of these services. For example, ports could limit the number of service providers in order to ensure safety, security and environmental sustainability.

Cargo handling and passenger services will also be subject to financial transparency rules, but are exempted from those on the organisation of port services.

The rules now need to be approved by the Council of the EU.