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Rules For Maritime Public Service Links To Small Islands Clarified

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

16 May 2006


The European Commission last week modified its policy on maritime public service links to and between small islands.

European rules apply to the selection of public service operators to and between small islands. The Commission clarified on Friday, however, that public authorities can choose a simplified procedure in order to select the service provider. Such a simplified procedure can apply if the maritime service involves less than 300,000 passengers per year. The previous threshold for applying the simplified procedure was 100,000 passengers.

Under the simplified procedure laid down in the 2003 Communication on maritime cabotage, companies operating links with “small islands” can be selected without a formal tender, and the maximum duration of public service contracts is twelve years instead of six years.

Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of transport explained that:

“Guaranteed and affordable maritime links are vital for ensuring adequate living and working conditions for citizens living on the islands. I propose to cut red tape and simplify the rules for chosing ferry operators. This will improve the legal and financial stability of maritime services in small islands. “

The initial threshold for “small islands”, set up at 100,000 passengers per year, implied that 40% of islands would be covered by the simplification exercise. The traffic volume pertaining to those islands, however, only represents around 1.8% of the total number of passengers carried by ferry on intra-Community lines. In order to strengthen the impact of simplification, an increase in the threshold was therefore necessary.

The new threshold of 300,000 passengers (8% of the total number of passengers) was also chosen in order to put the Communication on cabotage in line with the Commission Decision on the financing of services of general economic interest, which exempts from State aid notification compensation for maritime links to islands with less than 300,000 passengers per year.

Having the same threshold for State aid and cabotage purposes will make the simplification exercise more effective.


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