Today, the International Transport Forum (ITF) published a report on Maritime Subsidies in OECD countries. The main conclusions mostly address the EU state aid guidelines (SAG) and their application in EU Member States. The ITF report questions the effectiveness of the SAG and makes recommendations for improvements.
ECSA is of the firm opinion that the SAG are a profoundly effective instrument to maintain and strengthen the European shipping sector in a highly competitive global environment. These views are supported by publications such as the Oxford Economics’ Study on the Economic Contribution of the EU shipping industry to the European economy, growth and jobs.
ECSA also refers to the European Commission’s evaluation of the effectiveness of the SAG, which arrived at the conclusion that the SAG need to be continued. The European Commission is also closely scrutinising new or modified national measures, which requires the approval of DG Competition before they can enter into force. In this way, any distortion of competition between EU Member States is avoided.
Beside the scope, ECSA also questions the methodology of the report: its main flaw being that the global nature of the industry is not reflected in the analysis, which solely focused on EU practices. A thorough benchmark study, like the one Monitor Deloitte has conducted by comparing the EU with five non-EU competitors, is essential to draw well-grounded conclusions. Its findings concerning the effectiveness of the SAG, for example concerning employment opportunities for EU seafarers, should have entailed more in depth research. On the issue of employment it is vital to take into account fundamental differences between EU Member States’ labour markets for seafarers. Such analyses are completely missing in the ITF report.
Although critical about the report’s methodology, conclusions and recommendations, ECSA is prepared to discuss ways to improve the framework conditions for EU shipowners and EU seafarers, provided that the effectiveness of the current SAG is safeguarded and the international level playing field for EU shipowners is not jeopardised.