Flexibility in respect of the levying of port infrastructure charges in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak

In “Transport and Tourism - TRAN”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has seriously impacted maritime transport and strained the financial sustainability of shipping operators, particularly in passenger transport. Among the measures to support the sector, the European Commission proposed on 29 April 2020 to temporarily ease the levying of port charges from port users.

According to relevant EU Regulation 2017/352 on the provision of port services, EU Member States have to ensure that a charge for using port infrastructure is collected from port users. The charges are defined as direct or indirect payments to the port managing body or to the competent authority, for the use of infrastructure, facilities and services. Charges cover the waterway access to the port, access to the processing of passengers and cargo, but exclude land lease rates and similar charges. While a fee differentiation based on categories of users is possible, the regulation does not foresee any easing mechanism for emergency situations. Therefore, the currently proposed changes would allow - but not oblige - port authorities to temporarily adapt the collection of port infrastructure charges from all port users. Charges could either be waived (not required at all), suspended for a certain period of time, reduced or deferred (the payment would be required later).

What is more, while normally port users have to be informed of any changes in port infrastructure charges at least two months before these come into effect, under the current circumstances, this information can be given at a shorter notice. As long as it is done in a transparent, objective and non-discriminatory way, it is up to the port authority.

The Commission proposed that these temporary provisions would apply to port charges due between 1 March and 31 December 2020. This should provide the shipping companies, including ferry operators, with the needed liquidity. Given the urgency, the Commission has not carried out any ex-post evaluation, stakeholder consultation nor impact assessment. Likewise, the standard eight-week period for comments from national parliaments has exceptionally been waived.

The Council adopted its position on 8 May. It follows the Commission proposal but shortens by two months the period for which the temporary provisions would apply, that is, till 31 October 2020. Member States may also decide that such port authority decisions need to respect their national law.

The European Parliament adopted its position under the urgency procedure at first reading on 15 May 2020, in line with the Council's position (531 vote in favour, 141 against, 16 abstentions).

The Council formally adopted the modified regulation by written procedure on 20 May 2020. The final text was published in the Official Journal on 25 May 2020 and the new temporary rules entered into force the following day. 



Further reading:

Author: Marketa Pape, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/03/2023.