14. PORT SERVICES
Commission Communication: Reinforcing quality service in sea ports: A key for European transport. Draft Directive on market access to port services.
Amended proposal for a draft Directive on market access to port services.
|Legal base:||Article 80(2) EU; co-decision; qualified majority voting
|Basis of consideration:||Minister's letter of 7 June 2002
|Previous Committee Report: ||(a) HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 7 (21 November 2001) and HC 152-xxviii (2001-02), paragraph 2 (8 May 2002)
(b) HC 152-xxviii (2001-02), paragraph 2 (8 May 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:||17 June 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
|Committee's decision:||(a) Cleared (decision reported on 8 May)
(b) Cleared, but further information requested
14.1 On 8 May we considered a Communication on sea ports,
which also contained a draft Directive on market access to port
services (e.g. pilotage, towing and mooring) and an amended draft
Directive including a number of amendments proposed by the European
Parliament. We cleared the Communication and draft Directive,
but left uncleared the amended draft Directive, pending further
information on the progress of negotiations.
Minister's letter of 7 June 2002
14.2 In his letter, the Minister for Transport (Mr John
Spellar) reports on recent negotiations on the amended text.
14.3 He says that the Government has been keen to see
a number of changes to reflect the fact that most of the UK's
major ports are privately owned and operate competitively within
the usual market disciplines. He comments that the Government
has been successful in securing significant changes to the text
that meet many of the concerns raised by UK ports and trades unions.
These changes include:
- a package of amendments that should avoid the need for ports
to "unbundle" vertically integrated services, and recognise
the diversity of ports;
- exclusion of dedicated terminals not open to general commercial
- exclusion of ports with a strong seasonal character and port
services already tendered in accord with Community legislation,
recognising the special circumstances of peripheral areas;
- removal of the requirement for at least two independent service
providers for each category of cargo;
- longer maximum periods for contracts and for transitional
arrangements, increased from a maximum 25 years to 36 years (with
a ten-year extension option for contracts where significant reinvestment
occurs within the final ten years);
- similar provisions for rights derived from acquisition of
a port, and for new ports and terminals;
- expensive moveable assets such as gantry cranes to be treated
as a significant investment alongside port infrastructure; and
- selfhandlers to be bound by the same rules on authorisation,
employment and social matters as port based cargo and passenger
handlers, and limited to regular personnel (thereby excluding
use of casual labour).
14.4 The Minister says that the Government still has
some important reservations about the latest text, particularly
on cargo selfhandling and the proposed durations of contracts
and transitional arrangements. We understand that industry favours
a maximum period of some 45 years for contracts for certain expensive
immovable and movable assets whereas the text provides for a maximum
period of 36 years. The Minister says that the Government is interested
in balancing the liberalising agenda against the potential cost
to UK industry. He comments:
"Although many in the industry would prefer not to have a
Directive at all, there is now a growing recognition that we have
gone a very long way towards reducing the potential impact on
the industry and Government. The extent of the changes in the
text since discussions began in Working Group in February this
year, and the likelihood of further changes to come, have meant
that it has not been practicable to make a meaningful assessment
of the likely cost at this time."
14.5 We thank the Minister for his latest information,
especially on the changes negotiated recently.
14.6 Although some further changes may be agreed just
prior to the June Transport Council, we understand that there
is now a strong chance that the Presidency will be successful
in achieving political agreement at the next Council.
14.7 We are content to clear the amended text, but
request that the Minister informs us of any further concessions
made and the outcome of the Council.