The British Ports Association Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne warned against the distortion of competitive port markets with major public subsidies in response to the European Commission formally adopting the new General Block Exemption Regulations (GBER) on state aids which now cover EU ports.
On May 17, the European Commission widened the scope of GBER to ports and airports, following two public consultations.
The extended GBER now exempts certain public support measures for ports from prior Commission scrutiny.
With regard to ports, EU Member States can now make public investments of up to EUR 150 million in sea ports and up to EUR 50 million in inland ports with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission.
The new regulation also allows public authorities to cover the costs of dredging in ports and access waterways.
“While we fully appreciate the diverse nature of the European ports industry, we are disappointed that the revised GBER does not do more to limit potential market distortion,” Ballantyne said.
”The GBER now effectively means that subsided dredging activity can be exempted from state aid restrictions. A number of British ports have voiced concerns about subsidies for both capital projects and maintenance dredging at European ports, potentially disadvantaging the UK’s private sector ports industry.”