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EC Adopts Plan To Reduce Maritime Red Tape

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

26 January 2009

The European Commission has adopted an action plan aimed at creating a maritime transport area without borders in Europe by simplifying the myriad of individual customs, tax and other regulations.

This plan includes several legislative measures, including a proposal aimed at simplifying administrative formalities based on Community regulations and recommendations to member states for reducing the administrative burdens imposed on shipping companies.

"By making maritime transport more attractive and creating new openings for it, the proposed measures will lead to a more balanced use of transport modes, based on their own merits rather than on historically different administrative formalities; this will be beneficial for the environment and for the economy", emphasized European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani.

"The Commission considers that the necessary conditions for setting up a barrier-free maritime transport area are now in place and that relevant measures may be introduced in a staggered fashion between 2010 and 2013", he added.

The creation of a barrier-free maritime transport area in Europe should curb the demand for road haulage, reduce freight forwarding costs, while preserving expertise and promoting jobs in the lines of work necessary for the operation of maritime transport.

The Commission points to several measures which should be put in place by the member states. The various port inspection bodies that monitor compliance with customs, tax and health regulations and the conformance of plant and animal products often act without coordination, thus generating costs and delays which could easily be reduced.

The Commission has also called upon the member states to review and simplify their practices in these areas, which often come under the responsibility of local authorities.

More important, however, are the legislative measures, which are aimed at simplifying customs procedures and other reporting formalities. A proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and departing from Community ports is annexed to the communication.

Measures simplifying customs procedures will be adopted at the beginning of 2009 and guidelines aimed at accelerating plant and animal checks will be published in 2009. Port administrations may still carry out spot checks.

The action plan includes measures that are ongoing under the Modernized Customs Code, such as simplifying the formalities for Community shipping routes which include a stop in a neighbouring country, or measures that will be proposed at a later stage, along with the member states' recommendations, mainly with the aim of coordinating, where local conditions allow, inspections conducted by the various administrative services in the ports or to award pilot exemption certificates (PECs) to experienced captains.

The reduced costs and delays resulting from this administrative streamlining will benefit the entire economy and the end consumers. The proposed measures should help offset the downturn in the sector that may be feared on account of the financial crisis, designed as they are to enhance its competitiveness in relation to other modes of transport.

The creation of the single market in 1993 has helped streamline the administrative formalities for land-based transport to a great extent. Maritime transport, however, remains subject to complicated administrative procedures, even if a vessel is travelling between two EU ports (intra-Community maritime transport).

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