Contributions from Nctm Offices Around the World
Shipping & Transport Bulletin December 2017 – January 2018

Our Oceans

At the Our Oceans Conference held in Malta on 5 and 6 October the EU has announced that it will spend a little over €550 million on 36 different actions to foster healthier, cleaner, safer and more secure seas. The EU is sending a message to private operators and public authorities on the need to tackle the challenges to oceans including plastic pollution and protecting marine life to the impact of climate change and criminal activities at sea.

The main programmes can be categorised as covering Maritime Security, Marine Pollution and the Blue Economy. Maritime security covers natural disasters, piracy, trafficking and armed conflict and includes programmes on piracy on the African coast line and the Indian ocean, satellite monitoring. The marine pollution programme is by far the one with the least funding and is designed to address the 10 million tonnes of pollution ending up in the sea each year and the estimation that by 2050 the sea will have more plastic than fish. The most recent addition to the EU programme, and the section that will receive the bulk of the funding, is the Blue Economy section which covers research funding and development of pilot projects. A fact sheet with more details was published by the EU Commission on 5 October.

Ship passenger safety rules adopted

The new rules were adopted by the Council in October but allow Member States two years to implement them and a further four years to implement certain aspects of the rules such as electronic data reporting. The key changes concern technical requirements for the building of ships of more than 24 metres, the introduction of digital recording of passengers (with extended deadlines for some aspects) with the requirement to submit the data with 15 minutes of the ships departure, and changes to inspection regimes to lessen the burden on service providers.

Rail passenger rights

The EU is one of the few territories which passenger rights are protected if the travel is by air, rail, ship, bus or coach. The rail passenger rights rules were set down in December 2009 and like for air travel allow passengers to be compensated for delays of over an hour. Not all Member States have fully implemented the rules with Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia to the fore. The Commission is now proposing that the rights be updated in five key respects. 1) there should be uniform application of the rules to international, national, urban and suburban rail services; 2) better distribution of information to passengers as to their rights; 3) improve rights for passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility; 4) improvement in enforcement, complaint handling procedures and sanctions; 5) introduction of proportionality rules to exempt service providers in situations of force majeure or delays caused by natural disasters. The legislative proposal has now to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before coming into effect.

Nearly 1 billion air passengers in the EU in 2016

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical body issued a news release in October 2017 showing that almost I billion passengers (972.7 million) travelled by air in 2016. This is up 54 million since 2015 and up 29% since 2009. The biggest number of air travelers are in the UK followed by Germany, Spain, France and Italy with Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus showing the biggest increases.

The busiest airports in the EU are London/Heathrow with 75 million passengers followed by Paris/Charles de Gaulle with 65.8 million, then Amsterdam/Schiphol with 63.6 million and Frankfurt/Main with 69.7 million. Madrid and Barcelona are next in line followed by London/Gatwick.

The EU data has been designed to avoid double counting so that a passenger departing from Paris and arriving in London, or departing London and arriving in Glasgow, will only be counted once.

The use of drones in the EU

The European Commission has launched a fresh bid to get rules on drones in place by issuing estimates that in 2016 alone there were more than 1,200 safety ‘occurrences’ in the use of drones including near misses between drones and commercial aircraft. The Commission had proposed legislation in December 2015 but there has been little progress in the Council and the European Parliament on adopting the rules. In the absence of progress the Commission is going ahead within the SESAR programme, a programme to develop next generation air traffic management, to establish means to ‘geo-fence’ airports and critical air space. Geo-fencing can automatically prevent drones from flying into restricted zones.

Tax exemptions for maritime transport in Belgium

On 6 November 2017, the European Commission approved, under EU State Aid rules, the prolongation under 2022 of various support measures in Belgium in favour of maritime transport. The overall objective of the Belgian measures is to encourage ship owners to register their ships in an EU Member State and so ensure higher social, environmental and safety standards. The Belgian scheme applies to ships registered in any EEA (European Economic Area) state. Essentially the Belgian scheme taxes shipping companies not on their profit but on the tonnage the company operates. The tonnage approach is applied to core revenues from shipping activities, ancillary revenues and revenues from towage and dredging. The companies must be active in the transport of goods and passengers by sea and changes have been introduced to ensure that the benefit of the tax does not spill over into other sectors. Shipping companies are required to at least maintain their current EU registrations.

Anti-dumping and China

The European Parliament voted in favour of new rules to determine the value of goods coming from economies, like Vietnam or China, that suffer from significant distortions. In anti-dumping investigations, the level of the dumping is the comparison between the normal value in the country of origin of the goods and the export price to the EU.

China has argued that it can no longer be classified as a non-market economy. The EU did not consider that China could be classified as a market economy given the significant distortions present in the market. So as a compromise the EU agreed to change its anti-dumping law so as to stop classifying countries as either market or non-market and instead to focus on the extent to which the market could give reliable price signals determining a correct market based value.

The new rules are expected to be adopted by the Council in the course of November and come into force on 20 December. At that time the Commission will publish a 400 page report into distortions in the Chinese economy that will facilitate EU industry making complaints about dumping from China.




This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as a professional opinion. 
For further information, please contact Bernard O’Connor.