#PORTS NEWS – A major two-day ports conference organised by the European Commission, started today in Brussels, where 400 delegates representing different stakeholders within the port sector are attending.
The aim of the conference 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.
"We firmly believe that the European Union has the potential to be a positive force in establishing a renaissance of port management and policy", said European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) Chairman Victor Schoenmakers in his statement at the conference. "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 we give access to that land to operators is therefore essential. Whether we 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 us therefore an essential element of a common ports policy, next to guidance on State aid and guidance on the freedom to provide services."
The ports policy conference will be followed by a further consultation on the options at hand and an impact assessment. The outcome of the process is expected for spring next year.