On 20 September 2018, the European Commission found that Italy has breached EU State aid rules.
The Commission has examined whether direct grants of 44 million euro from Italy to the Port Authority of Naples were in line with EU State aid rules. The grants were used to renovate the dry-docks rented out by the Port Authority of Naples to Cantieri del Mediterraneo (CAMED), a ship building and ship repair company, on the basis of a 30-year concession.
The Government’s intervention is compatible with the European legislation on State aid when it is carried out on terms that are considered acceptable by a private investor operating under market conditions. According to the Commission, the grants assigned to the Port Authority of Naples do not comply with these terms as they are not-refundable and have no financing cost.
Besides the Port Authority, also CAMED benefited from the State aid. Since it rented out the dry dock facilities before the renovation, CAMED was able to use the refurbished port without having to participate in an open tender. Moreover, the fee owed to the Port Authority by the company was improperly calculated, since it was based on fixed parameters set by the law and did not reflect the increased economic value of the refurbished rented facilities. Therefore, the Commission stated that the grants at issue are incompatible with EU State aid rules.
The Commission conducted further investigations to clarify whether the delayed collection by the Port Authority of Naples of the concession fees granted to seven concessionaires (ship repairers, terminal operators and transport companies) constituted an unlawful aid. The Commission found that the Port Authority took various measures to collect the fees, such as the launch of procedures to terminate the concession contracts, the arrangement of instalment plans and imposition of interests for late payments. Therefore, the Commission considered that the Port Authority acted as a diligent market creditor.