Opening (14h00): The high-level two days-Conference European Ports Policy Review: "Unlocking the Growth Potential" begins in Brussels (25-26 September 2012).
More than 400 people are attending the event, representing the different stakeholders in the port sector. The aim of the conference, which is organised by the European Commission, is to analyse the current EU policy framework for ports, which is laid down in a communication of the Commission that was published in 2007. The outcome of the review is not decided yet, with options ranging between doing nothing, guidance on application of Treaty rules and full-blown legislation. A central part of the conference is also the role of ports as key nodes of the pan-European corridors 2030: A major innovation on the new Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) guidelines is the introduction of 10 implementing pan-European corridors.
The program is available at the official website of the event: Conference on European Ports Policy Review: "Unlocking the Growth Potential".
Siim Kallas (Vice-President of the European Commission): "The European Ports Policy Review initiative of the European Commission is neither about micro-management, nor about interruption of what works in European ports". This is not an "one size fits all" policy but a policy "about what works in European ports" and the expansion of such practices.The
Commissioner emphasised the presence of restrictions in the case of many services, the fact that several services are provided by few operators needs to be addressed. Explicit reference was made first to the different concepts of concessions in different member states and the 'tricky' issues of relationships between the port authorities and the operators. The results of 512 responses to the European Commission survey from port stakeholders across Europe showed that concession contracts were not always being made using non-discriminatory and transparent procedures. He warned that ports needed a fair competitive environment and legal certainty to attract business. Restrictive practices at European ports concerning concession awards, access to port services and the closed shops of labour cargo-handling set-ups is hampering growth at European ports.
Based on all these, there is a need to clarify rules. A second issue mentioned where port charges, as ports need to charge for services they provide. Finally, there was an explicit mentioning on the need for financial transparency. Simon Kallas concluded that the EPP "is not aiming to suggest models but to removing barriers and increase transparency".
Patrick Verhoeven (PortEconomics member) tweets: "Port authorities acting also as commercial operators may lead to conflicts of interest" - Siim Kallas opens EU Ports Policy Conference.
Siim Kallas tweets: "to attract more business, ports need a fair competitive environment and legal certainty".
Full speech by Commissioner is now available: A vital resource: Europe's ports face wind of change
Brian Simpson (MEP, Chair of TRAN Committee, European Parliament): There are complaints about cheap labour and the negative consequences on port labour regimes. Expressed his concerns about existing thoughts to privatize pilots. Overall, he stated, the EP would not be happy to hear that there are headquarters undermining the importance of skilled labour. A positive view about the efforts of the Commission to increase the competitiveness of European ports by promoting TEN, supporting Commission proposals on funding. The, experienced on port policy issues, MEP pointed that this should go hand-in-hand with the defence of a social chapter. The request was for a policy that represents ‘climb to the top’ rather than ‘race to the bottom’. On that base, he talked about a third package that includes performance quality and employment. That said, he reminded that in the EP inter-port competition, especially between ports in different countries.
Patrick Verhoeven (PortEconomics member) tweets: "MEP Brian Simpson, 'veteran' of the ports packages reminds Commission that Parliament rejected port services proposals twice"
A. Kokinos (represneting the Cyprus Presidency of the EU) quotes the ESPO Manifesto: "EU potentially a positive force in establishing renaissance of port management policy". He also focus on three vital issues for the future of the European Ports Policy: (a) open markets; (b) technology; (c) Trans-European Networks.
Prof Hercules Haralmbides (Erasmus University Rotterdam): "port authorities need to depart from their civil servant mentality". Focusing or efficiency and reliability, and the fact that logistics are more profitable than shipping, or port-to-port services, Prof. Haralambides noted that several port authorities are landlord on paper as they continue their intense ivolvment in several strategic decisions. His recommendations about the themes that future port policies need to address included (a) Presence of port authorities that are highly enterpreneurial and market oriented; (b) 'real' landlord port authorities (with autonomy in their financing, pricing, real estate management, and labour operations); (c) emphasis on green efficiency; (d) Port labour: advance training of young professionals, according to ILO standards, employed in an open port labour market; (e) state aid guidelines and clear definition of 'public vs. private invesment" in the port sectr; and (f) free - albeit well regulated - access to provide services needed to be ensured.
PricewaterhouseCoopers/NEA report on the consultation servey: Based on 512 replies (Shipping Companies 18%; Port Authorities 22%, Port Users 5%, Terminal operators 13%, workers 8%; services providers 33%):
- Future of trade: 41% feel that the future will be positive; only 9% feel that a decline lies ahead, 50% did not see the current trend to change; Most positive about the future of seaborne trade are port customers (55%), port authorities 54% and shipping companies (47%).
- Congestion in ports; Shipping lines: 48% never; 31% seldom; 21% feel its presence; Ports feel quite differently: 77% never; 16% seldom, 7% feel its presence; for ports there is hardly any congestion,
- Port Choice Criteria (scale 1-5): Physical attributes: 4.7; presence of passenger services 4.42; cargo services 4.39; Port organisation 4.32; labour 4.23; towage 3.97; pilotage 3.92; environmental services 3.74;
- 70-80% of respondents to EC ports survey do not see particular challenges for port services; yet the rest 20-30% disagree.
Patrick Verhoeven tweets: "North-south differences in awarding terminal contracts confirmed through results EC ports survey by PWC/NEA report".
Victor Schoenmakers (ESPO Chairman): We firmly believe that the European Union has the potential to be a positive force in establishing a renaissance of port management and policy. This can be done by, on the one hand, ensuring a level playing field and legal certainty, and, on the other hand, fostering growth and development of ports. Raising the specific challenges of port authorities, Mr Schoenmakers highlighted access to port land as a principal point of attention. "The most important asset that port authorities have is land. The way port authorities give access to that land to operators is therefore essential. Whether PAs do this through public domain concessions or private land lease contracts is irrelevant. What matters is the ability to balance transparency and flexibility when using these instruments. Having clear, but also proportional guidance on the application of relevant Treaty rules is for port authorities an essential element of a common ports policy, next to guidance on state-aid and guidance on the freedom to provide services.
Juan Riva (ECSA Chairman): Ports and hinterland connections are important for shipowners. As is concession prices and the TEN network proposals. This is because both make port services more efficient. As regards concessions, fair transparent, and relevant conditions that provide 'standards for the market' are important. It is also important that port users are charged for only the services they actually use. Port services need to be modernised, and provided according to market principles, in line with the clients need and the EU rules. Another important issue for shipowners is 'red tape'. According to Juan Riva, "'soft law' approach of 2007 did not deliver expected results", but also "ECSA welcomes the approach by S. Kalas on EPP".
Denis Choumert (Chairman, ESC): Shippers are the '2nd line'; they are aksed to head to one way by ship owners and they follow. Thus they need visibility of the field, and short-term, medium, long-term, horizon. KPIs are important for them, as is connectivity, because they need to address the risk. Liberalisation of services is welcomed as it would increase the options available to shippers.
Roland Homer (President, EFIP): Inland ports are not facilitators of external trade. The nature of competition is different, as being close to other inland ports is considered a plus. Road transport is the competititor. For inland ports the development of the waterfront is important. The three main challenges for inland ports are (a) infrastructure (b) historical function as entry points (and the lack of land and space to develop; (c) the need to take economic measures and develop. For the latter, inland ports need data, indicators that will support the measures taken.
Full statement by ESPO President realeased: ESPO statement
Gunther Bonz, (President, FEPORT): We offer 500.000 jobs and spent 5 billion Euros in a decade in infrastructure improvements. This is an industry, not a public service. An industry investing highly. Terminal operators are a higly competitive industry that faces intra-port and inter-port competion, while it competes with non-EU countries as well. There is no lack of capacity. FEPORT looks for investment security, means for the prolongation of concessions. Hinterland access is also a major issue, especially when the investments by the terminal operators are not matched by respective investments. Finally, for port operators there is a challenge due to environmental rules that request continuous adjustments. In total, €100 m of planned investment in new capacity from Europe’s private operators over the next five years would be at risk if any future EU port legislation interferes with the prolongation of existing concessions some of which will expire by 2015. Returns on major new investments would take longer than two or three years to achieve.
Debate on Port Labour
Erick van Hoydock (Portius): Conducted a survey about three aspects of port labour: (a) organisation of labour market (b) training and (c) health and safety in 22 member states. The aim is a toolbox for policy makers and a database allowing: Collection of figures ands sources of law, the description of current situation, Inventory of legal and policy issues, and an outline of possible actions at EU level. Labour is a delicate issue, as it is a contentious and taboo-ridder subject and the rejection of PP2 and PP3 is fresh in the memories. A key question is whether there are special characteristics of port labour due to (ir)regularity of demand, the transformation from unskilled work to multi-skilling, and the different occupational risk levels. In general, a number of restrictions were identified, either on employment or working practices. So while restrictions can be justified if certain conditions are met, they are in general incompatible with EU Law, and in some cases even inter-wined with restrictions on access to the port services market The list of restrictions include (a) Compulsory membership of labour pool; (b) exclusive right of labour pool to supply workers; (c) Mandatory registration of port workers; (d) compulsory membership of trade union (closed shop), (e) Compulsory appointment or nomination of pool members employes, etc. Self-handling is not a major issue, as there is no general demand by ship-owners to introduce it Based on the high diversity of organisational patterns training and health and safety regime across the EU, the policy options range from ‘do nothing’ to imposing conditions, or anything in between, with the EU principles of subsidiarity, proportionality, effectiveness, and acceptance imposing the need to act.
Patrick Verhoeven tweets: "Are port workers different from other workers? Key question for port labour debate".
Livia Spera (ETF): A major question fie ETF members was whether it would be useful to participate at the discussions for the reform of the EPP. Several members of ETF are convinced that industrial action is the only way ahead. So they did not want to participate at the debate. Port workers in Portugal strike, the same day of the conference, for a second week in a row. The reason is the proposal for reforming the port law in Portugal. There is a general fear that what is happening in Portugal is ongoing to happen all over Europe. The dialogue has not really started yet. We want social dialogue and we are engaged since 1995 in attempt, we know the strengths and the shorthcomings. We are here to engage in the dialogue if it is meaningful.
David Whitehead - (ESPO): There is hardly a surprise in the findings of the port labour report. It is unstastainable to employ 5 instead of 8 or 8 instead of the 5 needed. As the non-training is also unsastainable. The situation is different than what happens in other industries, so we need to de-mystify port labour.
Diego Teurelincx (Secretary General, FEPORT): The labour issue is closely related to state-aid/concession policy. FEPORT is asking for social dialogue, as labour is a production factor that should not be undermined. The target to be set in the context of this dialogue, and other EU activities, should be ‘proportional’; avoiding to address ‘what is not broken’. As 80% of the ports are efficient, we need to see what is the 20% that does not work. The DG –Employment is expected to give a green light to start a social dialogue. The later is a process and we need to conclude with a product. Europe needs to think of a sustainable social dialogue, and this needs time.
Anthony Tetard (IDCE): Concessions should come with clauses on conditions about workers and working conditions. We did not want to answer the labour questionnaire. We denounce the ‘scope’ of the study. This part of the attempts to reinforce antisosialist capitalism. The International Dockers Union will go for high level industrial action if the European Commission forces deregulation of port labour.