The European Parliament has voted in favour of a revised EU Ports Services Regulation (PSR) aiming to make European ports more competitive and increase financial transparency.
Despite voting against EU ports legislation twice in the past, the European Parliament adopted in plenary the revised PSR on March 8, with 451 MEPs voting in favour and 243 against.
The decision sparked controversy as big players in the UK port industry argued that privately-financed ports would be undermined by the PSR.
The revised proposal, which was drawn up by Knut Fleckenstein, a MEP from Hamburg, calls for a transparent and easy access to the market of port services, financial transparency for port authorities through their accounts in order to ensure a transparent and rational use of public funds, and mechanisms to handle disputes and consultations between port stakeholders.
According to a statement by the European Commission, the European Parliament gave a mandate to the rapporteur Fleckenstein and his colleagues to “start trilogues [defined as informal tripartite meetings attended by representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission] with the Council in view of reaching an agreement in first reading”.
The UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) and the British Ports Association (BPA) claimed in a statement that the PSR could lead to more unfair competition and force private ports to put their services out to tender, adding that they may lose freedom over port charges and commercial confidentiality may be threatened.
One day before voting on the directive took place, representatives from UK port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) and union Unite travelled to Strasbourg to argue against the proposal and urged MEPs to vote against it.
James Cooper, CEO of ABP and chairman of the UKMPG, claimed that the current text is ambiguous, adding that this “ambiguity” is unhelpful as it creates uncertainty and puts future investment, growth and jobs at risk.
However, the Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT) had called for MEPs to vote in favour of the text “en bloc”.
Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport, said in a statement following the MEPs’ decision: “A competitive port sector is critical to the well-functioning of the internal market, and our seaports are gateways from the trans-European network to the rest of the world. Once adopted, the regulation will facilitate private investment in ports and encourage more efficient public investments and port services.”
With the UK approaching a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union, some Eurosceptics have taken a political view of the controversy.
Before voting on the PSR took place, Nicholas Finney, former head of the UK Seaports Federation, claimed in a Conservative Party-supporting website that “the PSR is the perfect example of all that can be wrong with both EU principles and process”.
Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid, FEPORT’s secretary general, commented on the European Parliament’s vote in a tweet: “Important step achieved, looking forward to keeping dialogue during trilogue.”
Source: Container Management