Traditional role of port authority changes
Traditional role of port authority changes

 More than 270 representatives of European port authorities, port-related stakeholders and government agencies attended the 5th edition of the annual ESPO conference which was held in the Atlantic Kempinski Hotel in Hamburg over the past two days.

The programme included an international comparison of port authority strategies as well as workshop sessions on port property management, stakeholder relations and port performance. A lot of attention was paid to port concessions which formed the subject of a survey ESPO recently commissioned from the Institute of Transport and Maritime Management Antwerp (ITMMA). The conference closed with a review of the Commission?s 2007 ports policy communication by both MEPs and DG TREN Director-General Matthias Ruete (photo).

?Judging from the input we got at this conference it is clear that the traditional role of the port authority changes? said ESPO Chairman Giuliano Gallanti, ?With shipowners and terminal operators being globalised we must avoid that the port authority becomes marginalised as the only remaining local actor.? Mr. Gallanti confirmed that concession instruments are important governance tools which should be used in an intelligent way. ?The guidance on concessions provided in the Commission?s ports policy communication is helpful to ensure a level playing field but we must now translate it into concrete terms. We will discuss the best way forward in ESPO, taking into account the results of the ITMMA survey? concluded Mr. Gallanti.

DG TREN Director-General Matthias Ruete confirmed that the Commission was currently working on three priority issues: state aid and environmental guidelines, as well as social dialogue. On the State aid issue, the Director-General explained that a difficult discussion was ongoing within the Commission on the legal interpretation of the Treaty rules with regard to public funding of infrastructure. One line of thought was that all public funding would be qualified as State aid and would therefore have to be notified to the Commission. ?This would create a horrible bureaucracy for nothing? said Mr. Ruete, who indicated that DG TREN favours the approach that general infrastructure would not be regarded as State aid. He further confirmed that the environmental guidelines would not have a legal interpretative status but provide clarifications and guidance on good practice. ?The aim is to move out of the current litigation culture? said Mr. Ruete.

The Director-General concluded his intervention by referring to the upcoming review of the Trans-European Transport Networks which is planned for 2010. ?Co-modal hubs, such as ports, should have a more prominent position when they are clearly seen as indispensable parts of the whole logistics chain? said Mr. Ruete who announced that a Green Paper on the review would be forthcoming around Christmas. ESPO Chairman Giuliano Gallanti announced that the next ESPO conference, which will be held in Marseilles on 14 and 15 May 2009, will be focusing on this theme and particularly address the sustainability of the European port system and the related transport corridors, including the role of global hubs, regional and local ports as well as networking opportunities between ports.

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