Anti-Trust and German shipping cooperatives

On 31 January, the Commission closed an anti-trust investigation into two shipowner cooperatives organized by Container Feeder eG and European Minibulk eG. The two coops had agreed not only to coordinate the purchase of fuel but also to exchange certain information and give incentives to idle ships. The Commission considered that these last two items could lead to anti-competitive behaviour. After discussions between the Commission and the Coops that aspect of the Coops activities was abandoned and the agreement was allowed to go through.

ENVI Committee Approves Controversial Ship Recycling Levy

On Wednesday, 27 March 2013, the Committee on Environment (ENVI) of the European Parliament voted in favour of the draft report of MEP Carl Schlyter on the proposed ship recycling regulation. MEPs approved the controversial compromise amendment that introduces a tonnage-based levy of 0.05 Euro per gross tonnage, to be charged on all ships calling at EU ports, irrespective of their flag. This proposal would substantially increase the cost of calling at EU ports, resulting in traffic evasion to non-EU ports.

Air Passenger Rights

The EU Court of Justice has continued its expansive interpretation of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation (261/2004). This Regulation requires carriers to pay compensation to passengers when flights are cancelled. In the Sturgeon case from 2009 the Court had ruled that the Regulation also covered delayed flights. Now the Court has ruled in the recent Ryanair case that the eruption of a volcano in Island, sending ash into the atmosphere, was not ‘an extraordinary circumstance’ such as to exempt Ryanair to pay compensation for cancelled flights. Another case from the same Court found that a small delay that meant that a subsequent flight was missed causing further delays over the trigger amount of 3 hours was sufficient to trigger compensation.

State Aids in Greece

The EU Court of Justice confirmed the decision that a Euro 310 million state aid granted by Greece to the Sharamangkas shipyard was illegal and should be repaid. This case has been running since 2008 when the Commission decision was first taken. Greece had argued that it should be allowed to give aid to the yard as it was an essential security facility (building warships). The Court confirmed that the right of the Commission to ensure that the aid did not spill over into commercial activities.

Customs: Agreement on Supply Chain Security

The EU and Canada may not have been able to conclude the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (problems remain on public procurement and agriculture) but they have agreed on customs cooperation. In essence the EU and Canada will recognize each other’s AEOs or ‘authorised economic operators’ for the EU and PIPs or ‘partners in protection’ on the Canadian side. There are similar agreements with Switzerland and Norway (since 2009), the US for containers and with China on logistics and with Japan.

Export Credit and state aids

SACE in Italy and Ducroire in Belgium, the national export credit companies owned by the state, will have to pay back around Euro 70 million and Euro 36 million respectively. The Commission found that the monies, paid to cover operating losses in 2009, were used to subsidise insurance products that were readily available from private insurers and thus was distorting competition.