• Home
  • News
  • EU Commission launches probe into tax exemptions for French, Belgian ports
  • 2016 July 11 10:19

    EU Commission launches probe into tax exemptions for French, Belgian ports

    The European Commission has opened two in-depth probes to check if corporate tax exemptions granted under Belgian and French law to ports' economic activities are in line with EU state aid rules and whether they give companies in a certain sector an advantage over competitors in other Member States, the EU Commission said Friday in a press release.

    Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Ports play a key role in the EU's economy. Our competition rules reflect that and allow Member States to support the construction or upgrade of port infrastructure through investment aid. However, tax exemptions shouldn't distort competition by giving an unfair advantage to some ports over others in Europe."

    Cross-border competition plays an important role in the ports sector and the Commission is committed to ensuring a level playing field in this important economic sector.

    The main activity of ports is the transfer of people and cargo, as well as the provision of infrastructure to shipping companies, shipbuilders and other companies. This commercial operation of port infrastructure constitutes an economic activity, for which ports should pay corporate tax, just like other companies do. However, ports also carry out certain activities that are linked to the exercise of essential State responsibilities such as safety, surveillance and traffic control. Such activities fall outside the scope of EU state aid control.

    A corporate tax exemption for ports that earn profits from economic activities provides them with a selective advantage compared with their competitors in other Member States and therefore involves state aid within the meaning of the EU rules.

    In Belgium, a number of sea and inland waterway ports (notably the ports of Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Charleroi, Ghent, Liège, Namur and Ostend, as well as ports along the canals in Hainaut Province and Flanders) are exempt from the general corporate income tax regime. These ports are subject to a different tax regime, with a different base and tax rates, resulting in an overall lower level of taxation for Belgian ports on their commercial activities as compared to other companies in Belgium.

    In France, most ports, notably the 11 "grands ports maritimes" (Bordeaux, Dunkerque, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes - Saint-Nazaire and Rouen as well as Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique and Réunion), the 'Port autonome de Paris', and ports operated by chambers of industry and commerce, are fully exempt from corporate income tax. This self-evidently results in an overall lower level of taxation for French ports on their commercial activities as compared to other companies in France.

    In January 2016, following its investigation into the functioning and taxation of ports in EU Member States, the Commission asked Belgium and France to bring their corporate tax law into line with EU state aid rules by abolishing their tax exemption for ports. As Belgium and France have not agreed to align their tax laws as the Commission proposed, the Commission has now opened in-depth investigations to assess whether its initial concerns are confirmed or not.

    The opening of an in-depth investigation gives an opportunity for the two Member States and interested third-parties – such as beneficiaries or competitors - to comment on the state aid assessment of the tax exemptions, in particular as to the assessment of the economic nature of ports' activities and the effect on competition and trade. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

    As both the Belgian and the French measures already existed before the establishment of the EU in 1958, the aid is regarded as "existing aid". This means that the Commission cannot ask Belgium and France to recover aid granted in the past, nor any aid granted up until the moment that a final decision is adopted by the Commission.

    "Existing aid", and its assessment, is subject to a specific cooperation procedure between Member States and the Commission. When existing aid seems to be in breach of EU state aid rules, the Commission's first step is to inform the Member State concerned about its concerns. In light of the reply, the Commission may then propose appropriate measures to the Member State to bring the measures into line with EU state aid rules. If the Member State does not accept the proposal, the Commission may, as a third step, open an in-depth investigation to verify the compatibility of the aid. Today's decisions fall into this third category.

    Removing unjustified tax advantages does not mean that ports can no longer receive state aid. Member States have many possibilities to support ports in line with EU state aid rules, for example to achieve EU transport objectives or to put in place necessary infrastructure investment which would not have been possible without public aid. In that regard the Commission has proposed to widen the scope of its General Block Exemption Regulation to include non-problematic investment aid to ports and foster strategic investments in infrastructures that have the potential to create jobs in Europe.

    In January 2016, the Commission required the Netherlands to put an end to the corporate tax exemption granted to the Dutch public seaports.




2021 November 28

15:17 PGS awarded 4D contract in the North Sea
14:08 Cruises return to the Port of New Orleans with 285 ship calls estimated for 2022
13:54 Kalmar to deliver significant order of Straddle Carriers to MPET and PSA in Antwerp
12:41 Skipper ordered to pay reparation of $10,400 after collision with kayaker on the Whanganui River, NZ
12:17 Port of San Diego extends public review period for Draft EIR for PMPU
11:57 HAROPA PORT elected “Best Green Seaport 2021”
11:33 Contract award for MPSV Siem Dorado
10:48 Port of Dunkerque announces new appointments to its Executive Board

2021 November 27

14:38 Liquid Wind secures SEK 151 million for production of fossil free fuel
13:21 TECO 2030 receives NOK 50 million in government support for fuel cell development
11:09 Inmarsat offers future-proof remote control connectivity for latest sea-kit uncrewed surface vessel trials
10:54 J.P. Morgan and Havfram AS announce a series of next generation wind turbine installation vessels

2021 November 26

18:17 TECO 2030 is leading a project group that will build a hydrogen-powered high-speed vessel for the Port of Narvik
18:00 TransContainer’s IFRS-based net profit in 9M'2021 increased by 51% to RUB 14.8 bln
17:35 Royal Niestern Sander signs contract for walk to work vessel conversion
17:26 PortNews offers final edition of its magazine for 2021
17:15 Konecranes and Cargotec note CMA’s announced Provisional Findings regarding the planned merger of Konecranes and Cargotec
17:03 IMO appoints Special Advisor on Maritime Security
16:55 Nord Stream 2 delay weighs on gas prices - Gasum
16:40 Nevsky Shipyard lays down two research vessels of Project 17050
16:25 BIMCO calls for continued naval support in Gulf of Guinea after piracy incident
16:05 Alfa Laval and Orcan Energy sign a cooperation agreement for the marine market
15:43 Wärtsilä launches power limitation solutions for EEXI compliance
15:25 Hiab launches HIAB iQ.1188 HiPro loader crane with new control system
14:47 RF Government approves Transport Strategy of Russia until 2030 with forecast until 2035
13:59 Sredne-Nevsky Shipyard launches Anatoly Shlemov minesweeper of Project 12700
13:11 The Port of València hosts a rescue drill for a crane operator
12:10 GTT obtains tank design order for three new LNG Carriers from Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries
11:54 Phase 2 of Bagayevsky hydrosystem construction begins
11:52 Ardmore moderates COP26 ‘ShipZero’ panels, discussing the realities of zero emission ships
11:17 ClassNK signs MOU on cybersecurity with Panama Maritime Authority (PMA)
10:51 MSC starts new In-Transit Cargo service
10:32 MABUX: Global bunker market to keep slight irregular fluctuations with no firm trend on Nov 26
10:22 Oboronlogistics' Ambal ferry obtaines certificate on safety management from RS
09:48 MPA and maritime partners maintain cybersecurity readiness through inaugural exercise
09:33 Baltic Dry Index as of November 25
09:17 Oil prices decrease on concerns over reduction of demand

2021 November 25

18:06 Rolls-Royce and Zhenjiang Shipyard to jointly promote tugs and workboats with mtu engines in China
17:44 Delo Group presented own Digitalization Strategy
17:16 Keppel awarded FSRU conversion and FPSO integration work worth around S$200 million
16:25 Cargo traffic within Azov-Don Basin of Russia’s IWWs fell by 14% in 2021
16:03 Great Lakes Dredge & Dock announces receipt of $92.5 mln Houston Ship Channel widening and improvement project 11 award
15:59 Damen Shipyards achieves official EU Stage V certification for its Emission Reduction system
15:30 RF State Duma ratifies Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention, 2007
15:02 Navigator Holdings announces approval in principle for new CO2 carrier designs for its Dan-Unity CO2 joint venture with Evergas
14:59 RINA, ABB, Helbio, the Liberian Registry, Wärtsilä and an Energy Major enter in proposal with hydrogen as fuel to meet IMO2050 targets
14:44 Rosterminalugol shipped 21 million tonnes of export coal over 10M’2021
14:21 BAE Systems launches next-generation power and propulsion system to help marine operators reach zero emissions
13:55 MABUX: Bunker Weekly Outlook, Week 47, 2021
13:12 Kongsberg Maritime and Norsepower MoU agreement facilitates Rotor Sail integration for shipowners
12:31 Sea Port of Saint-Petersburg allocated over RUB 21 million for implementation of its environmental programme
12:06 Port of Kiel describes path to climate neutrality by 2030
11:06 Third Finnlines hybrid ro-ro launched in China Merchants Jinling Shipyard
10:35 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries receives a major turbomachinery order for Ust-Luga LNG export plant
10:31 MABUX: Bunker prices may demonstrate slight upward changes on Nov 25
10:30 Navigation season closed on Volga-Baltic Waterways
10:06 Port of Long Beach named the best West Coast Seaport in North America
09:41 Oil market sees mixed price movements
09:22 Baltic Dry Index as of November 24
09:08 The second of Damen’s new Shoalbuster 2711 class handed over to Ports of Jersey in christening ceremony