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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
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  • WAIT.USA
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  • ITVI.USA
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  • OTLT.USA
    2.779
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  • OTRI.USA
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  • OTVI.USA
    15,255.990
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.950
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  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

EC to investigate Antwerp container terminal operators

The European Commission has opened an inquiry into whether the Port of Antwerp violated EU state aid rules by reducing compensation payments for PSA Antwerp and Antwerp Gateway after failing to reach minimum tonnage requirements from 2009 to 2012.

   The European Commission has opened an inquiry into whether the Port of Antwerp violated European Union state aid rules by reducing compensation payments for two container terminal operators, according to a statement from the EU’s anti-competition organization.
   At issue is whether terminal operators PSA Antwerp NV and Antwerp Gateway NV were given an “undue advantage” over their competitors as a result of the revision of minimum tonnage requirements by the port authority.
   Fully-owned by the city of Antwerp, Belgium, the Port of Antwerp is managed by the Antwerp Port Authority, which then makes land available to companies to operate in the port area on the basis of concession agreements.
   According to the EC, the concession agreements for PSA Antwerp and Antwerp Gateway, signed in 2004 for a period of 42 years (i.e. until 2046), included a minimum requirement for container throughput, which both operators failed to meet from 2009 to 2012. As a result, the watchdog said, both should have been required to compensate the port authority for failing to fulfill the concession agreements.
   Instead, the authority in March 2013 decided to retroactively reduce the minimum tonnage requirements, decreasing the amount of compensation to be paid by PSA Antwerp and Antwerp Gateway by around 80 percent.
   The EC opened its investigation, a non-confidential version of which will be made available under case number SA.35905 in the State Aid register on the its website, following a complaint from a competing terminal operator. The investigation will examine whether a private investor would have accepted to reduce its compensation in a similar manner.
   If, however, the EC finds the reduction in minimum volume requirements was not carried out on market terms it would potentially be considered “state aid” as defined by EU rules. The commission would then verify whether such aid could be authorized under current rules, which allow member states to grant state aid for certain public interest goals.
   Because the Antwerp Port Authority is a public authority, “the reduction in compensation that it granted to PSA Antwerp NV and Antwerp Gateway NV is a public intervention,” the EC said.
   “Under EU state aid rules, public interventions in favor of companies can be considered free of state aid when they are made on terms that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions (the market economy investor principle – MEIP),” it added. “If this principle is not respected, the public interventions involve state aid within the meaning of Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, because they confer an economic advantage on the beneficiary that its competitors do not have.”
   Meanwhile, the Port of Antwerp recently reported record volumes for the full year in 2015.
   The port said Monday it handled 208,423,920 tons of freight during the calendar year, passing the 200-million-ton mark 2015 for the first time in its history and a 4.7 percent increase from 2014 figures.
   Container volumes at Antwerp grew 7.5 percent year-over-year to 9.6 million TEUs in 2015, also setting a new record. In tonnage terms, containerized cargo stood at 113,294,675 ton, up 4.6 percent compared with 2014.
   Volumes of roll-on/roll-off and conventional breakbulk cargoes in 2015 were up 4.1 percent to 4,653,351 tons and 1.2 percent to 10,007,679 tons from the previous year.
   Liquid bulk volumes at the Port of Antwerp grew 6.1 percent to 66,668,371 tons in 2015, with oil derivatives up 4.0 percent to 47,904,167 ton, chemicals jumping 18.2 percent to 13,442,950 tons, and crude oil volumes falling to 3.4 percent to 4,814,047 ton for the year.
   Throughput of dry bulk cargoes grew 2.2 percent to 13,799,844 tons, led by strong growth in coal (up 11.8 percent to 1,585,083 ton) and sand and gravel (up 14.9 percent to 1,554,290 tons.)
   During the past 12 months, a total of 14,417 seagoing ships called at the Port of Antwerp, a 2.9 percent increase from 2014, while overall gross tonnage also grew considerably in 2015, up 9.7 percent to 367,709,003 GT.
   The port noted its dockworkers performed 3.2 percent more freight handling jobs in 2015 and employment among them was down 22.7 percent compared with the previous year.
   “With these growth figures Antwerp is performing significantly better than Rotterdam and Hamburg, the N° 1 and 3 respectively in North-West Europe,” the port said of the results. “The port of Antwerp has seen its container volume growing strongly since the beginning of 2015, in particular from Asia.”

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