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The German government wants the European Commission to kill off its proposal on deregulating port services across the European Union.

«The proposal is fundamentally flawed,» Ralf Nagel, state secretary at the Federal Ministry for Transport, said Wednesday.

The Port Services Directive plan would neither improve competition nor the quality of services, Nagel said. In fact, it is likely to endanger sea ports in Germany and across the rest of northwestern Europe, he says.

Nagel said there is already stiff competition among ports in northwestern Europe, and the rules would likely lead to more red tape, higher administrative costs and job losses. He bases this assessment on a study carried out for the ministry by the Institute for Sea Transport and Logistics.

Instead of allowing in monopolies, the commission wants independent authorities to lease port services, including cargo handling, mooring and passenger facilities. Ports in continental Europe are generally owned by state and local governments, while in the U.K. they are privately owned.

The European Parliament blocked an attempt by the Commission to deregulate port services in 2003, saying that it would lead to cheap workers from flooding into the market. At the moment, ships are loaded and unloaded by workers employed by the owners of the port. But under the commission’s plan, ship owners could use their own teams.

The commission’s second proposal also envisages allowing ships to use their own personnel and equipment for loading and unloading containers, instead of relying on regular dock laborers.

In addition, the commission’s new plan would attach conditions to the provision of port services. Concessions would be limited in time and linked to the amount of investment made by companies in facilities such as cargo handling cranes.

The regulations would apply to all EU ports handling at least 1.5m tonnes of freight or 200,000 passengers a year. Around 400 ports meet these criteria. (Reuters)

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