On 8 March 2016 the European Parliament voted in favour of the controversial EU Port Services Regulation ("PSR"). Whilst the outcome of the vote was not unexpected (because many other European countries support the PSR) it is disappointing for the UK Ports industry which is strongly opposed to the PSR.
Approximately 96% of all freight and 93% of passengers passing through EU ports transits through the EU's 329 main seaports. These 329 ports have been identified by the trans-European transport network ("TEN-T") as essential to the functioning of the internal market. The PSR will apply to all 329 ports in the TEN-T network. Of these, a total of 43 are located in the UK.
The PSR is intended to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of EU ports and to contribute towards their ability to cope with anticipated increased demand. It wants to do this by strengthening market access for port services, in effect encouraging competition; ensuring financial transparency; and improving port coordination and consultation.
However, in contrast to the position in Europe where many ports are local authority controlled, the majority of Ports in the UK are considered 'privatised'. The UK Major Ports Group ("UKMPG") and British Ports Association consider that the PSR will undermine the growth and success of private ports in the UK.
In its statement on the European Parliamentary vote, the UKMPG commented:
"UKMPG and the British Ports Association (BPA) have campaigned strongly against this proposed regulation since it was launched by the Commission in May 2013. UK ports are amongst the most efficient and productive in the world, contribute substantially to the UK economy and employment, and operate without cost to the taxpayer.
While claiming to promote competition, the EU proposal would impose unnecessary cost and bureaucracy on UK ports and prevent them from operating as commercial businesses. This would put essential future investment at risk. As the industry has demonstrated, the UK's ports sector is already strongly underpinned by the principles of competition and therefore these proposals are not needed."
The BPA and UKMPG will continue to campaign strongly against the PSR. The next step is for trialogue negotiations to take place to agree the text of the PSR.
Further information on the PSR can be found at the following links: