State Aid - Commission opens in-depth inquiry into public support in favor of Portuguese shipyard ENVC

The Commission has started an investigation of the Portuguese public supported measures granted to the shipyard ENVC are in line with State Aid rules, as it holds serious concerns that the measures were carried out in a way that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions. As a part of the investigation, interested parties now have an opportunity to comment on the investigated measures. The Commission is basing its investigation on alleged support by the Portuguese authorities amounting € 180 million. Some of the measures that will be investigated include the granting of several loans and interest bearing loans to cover costs of production. The Commission has found that Portuguese authorities intend to grant new support to ENVC in its privatization process.  

State Aid - Commission approves amendments to Finnish scheme for cleaner vessels

In particular, the Commission considered that the amendments that consisted in giving incentives to ship owners to use less polluting fuel. The amendments also allow to finance the acquisition of new ships or the adaption of the old ones, as long as they are made along the current EU rules. In words of Competition Commissioner, this scheme shows how state aid measures can be used to implement stricter environmental rules before they entry into force. The amendments concern a Directive adopted by the Commission in 2012, the Sulphur Directive, which provides for stricter rules on the sulphur to be used in marine fuel in the so-known as Sulphur Emission Control Area, covering the English Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Lastly, it means a two year in advance implementation of the rules, which are to enter into force as of 2015  

Irish Presidency priorities on Transport

The Irish Ministry of Transport, Leo Varadkar, outlined the main objectives of the Irish presidency as regards transport sector to his counterparts at the Committee of Transport. Varadkar said they will focus on the technical aspects of the fourth railway package. He added that this is the first step necessary towards the goal of a fully integrated rail system in Europe. On top of it, an agreement on the Trans- European Transport Network (TEN-T), will be challenge to be achieved or obtain significant progress on. It will require an agreement on its cofinancing instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility. MEPs called on the Irish minister to no make budget cuts affecting this instrument. However, it seems that it will be affected by the adjustments to be made by the Council. MEPs stated that without an adequate budget allocated, the TEN-T excellent structure foreseen will not be fully accomplished.  

TEN-T Programme to support speed railways in Italy

The Commission adopted a € 10 million package for a project intended to improve the railway system in the north of Italy, in the region of Lombardy. The project will fund the acquisition of automated computers to control the high speed line linking Turin-Milan-Verona-Padua, aiming to ease the interoperability and improve freight and passenger transport. The funds will also be used for the construction of two tunnels linked to the same highspeed railway improving the connection and capacity with the rest of Italy  

EU Industry calls for immediate A-D duties on canned mandarines from China

Copa-Cogeca, the EU Association of European farmers and agri-cooperatives, has urged the EC to impose A-D duties on the imports of canned mandarins from China. In words of its Secretary General, Copa-Cogeca warned about the imminent risk of closing down that many factories are facing if no measures are rapidly adopted. Lastly, Copa- Cogeca stressed the crucial importance of imposing the measures as soon as possible and with retroactive effect to the season starting year, namely, November 2012, as otherwise measures would have not the desired impact on Chinese imports.  

EU-Philippines

The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) stated that the Philippines should move towards a FTA with the EU before it becomes part of the ASEAN single market in 2015. According to ECCP, if the Philippines does not sign a FTA with the EU by then, it will lag behind other ASEAN members, namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, which are paving the way to have a FTA with the EU in force by then. Though some talks took place in October, ECCP says that the movements are going at a very slow pace  

The UK Freight Transport Association publishes the 51st yearbook of Road Transport Law

The book, published on a yearly basis, aims to make all transporters and related operators aware of the laws governing road transport. It includes the most recent updates on road transport law, inter alia, the new rules on weight and dimensions, construction and use, new operator licensing rules and traffic regulations  

EU-South Korea: Hyundai gets hit by EU car imports

Hyundai, the main South Korean car-maker, is facing unusual loss of sales in its domestic market up to 3%, despite its worldwide growth. The reason behind this uncommon trend is the recently enforced FTA with the EU, which allows much lower tariffs in the imports of EU-made vehicles, whose imports increased up to 10% last year. The powerful brand is now trying to readjust its competitiveness in this new scenario, to compete specially with german-origin brands and so it has started to lower the prices in some of their cars. Until the FTA came into force, South Korean car makers attracted clients by cheaper maintenance and repair costs, however, the reduction of tariffs for cars coming from the EU down to 4%, has eliminated that advantage  

Vietnam lifts import restrictions on certain products

In a notice published on January 8, the Trade Ministry of Vietnam announced the lift on the import restrictions on wine, mobile phones and cosmetic products, which had been in force since June 2011. As from that date, imports of these products could only be imported to Vietnam through the three main international seaports. In addition, importers were obliged to obtain documents verified by Vietnamese agencies in the exporting countries, thus making imports burdensome. After receiving complaints by the importers, the authorities decided to remove the measures. The General Customs Department stated that the measure had failed to address its objectives, as it was proved that during the time it was in force the effectiveness of fight against tax evasion decreased. By lifting the measures, the Department hopes to boost the consumption and development within the country  

Cargo transport to benefit from high-speed rail route - China

On Saturday, the longest high-speed rail route in the world, linking Beijing and Guangzhou, was inaugurated for test operation. It is expected that this route will result in a massive cargo transport capacities as movement of people will soar. It is expected that commodities such as coal, steel, rice, oil and ores, will be transported on the high-speed trains. Data shows that a high percentage of the transport of products like iron and steel and timber are made by rail, however, given the limited capacities they could be transported in a time and manner appropriate. A Director of one of the main steel companies, stated that in a similar rail line opened in 2010, linking Wuhan and Guangzhou, cargo of steel raised 30%. In this same line, nearly 4,000 carriages were added to the railway, which meant an increase of around 88 million tones in cargo capacity  

European Commission (DG Transport) to support different projects under TEN-T Programme

The Directorate General for Transport (DG Transport) has confirmed it will support several projects under the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Programme. It will support with 1 million euro the project that seeks to transform the railway network of the Port of Barcelona into UIC gauge (Iberia's gauge until now). It aims to increase its internal operations by attracting new operators. It will also provide with 500,000 euro to the project connecting terminals 1 and 2 of Malpensa airport with a rail link. This would mean a great improvement as up to date, terminal 2 can only be reached by road. Lastly, the EC will co-finance with 5 million euro the upgrading works in the railway network to be carried out in the southern part of the Jutland peninsula, in Denmark