Promoting free trade is vital to ensuring that Europe stays competitive as a physical shipping hub at a time when Europe is losing ground, according to Dr Konstantinos Adamantopoulos, Partner at the Brussels office of Holman Fenwick Willan.
Addressing the flagship European Shipping Week conference in Brussels, he said that a free trade agreement like TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) alone could generate an additional €119 billion for the European economy.
“It should therefore be in the regulators’ interest to continue to reduce barriers to trade and support free trade,” he told delegates.
This was all at a time when only two out of the six largest European ports improved throughput between 2012 and 2013 and when all of the 10 largest Asian ports improved theirs. Also since 2004, the three major flags of convenience have increased the amount of registered dwt at a greater rate than EU registries.
The world share of dwt registered in the EU has dropped from 23.4% to 18.6% of the global fleet while the three major flags of convenience have seen an increase from 35% to 41.6%, he said.
He told delegates: “The EU must maintain its commitment to the tonnage tax allowed by State aid rules if it wants this situation to be reversed.”
Shipping was a major contributor to the EU economy accounting for a €145 Billion annual contribution to the EU’s GDP, €41 Billion in annual tax revenues and employing 2.3 million employees, he said, and regulations targeted at improving the economic performance of shipping companies, such as rules that help reduce tax burdens can benefit the industry’s competitiveness. Regulations aimed at improving the environmental or social obligations of shipping companies are to be welcomed.
“However it is preferable for these regulations to be made at a global level so that there is consistency and one particular region isn’t disadvantaged by them,” he warned.