EU Commissioner in Port of Rotterdam: ‘We have to become harder’

European Commissioner Siim Kallas wants to compel more competition in European ports. He announced this on Thursday afternoon in Rotterdam. Port services such as towing and pilotage services must be further deregulated.

In an exclusive interview with the Dutch and Belgian transport papers Nieuwsblad Transport and DeLloyd, Kallas said he wanted to depart from the “soft approach” that the European Commission has adhered to for several years in this area. He wants to introduce new measures in 2013 that will make a “slightly harder approach” possible.


“It turns out that the soft law approach does not work well,” according to Kallas. “So we have to tackle the matters ‘a little’ harder.” He is thinking emphatically about the monopoly situations that are still very common, especially in the South European ports, for all kinds of port services. “The ports in North-West Europe are already functioning reasonably well. Those ports have already experienced more liberalisation. Thus there is no longer the obligation whenever and wherever to use a pilot from one provider at a fixed rate when the ship calls in at the port. Sometimes, for example, the captain can steer the ship himself too.”More than anything he intends getting more competition in the ports so there is more choice and prices can drop. “I am thinking of honest tendering procedures if a slot is freed up somewhere; more openness and fewer obstacles for newcomers to the market.” Kallas is well aware that previous efforts in 2003 and 2006 to introduce competition in the ports failed miserably. In particular the unrest among dockworkers and the resistance of South European parliamentarians in the European Parliament wrecked the proposals then. In the Ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp as well, where the stevedoring unions have a monopoly, rigorous action was taken at the time. “I witnessed the riots in Strasbourg, for instance,” he says. “We don’t want that any more. We believe we can counteract that through good consultation, and by first removing the problems the unions see before we take any definitive measures. For that purpose we have already set up a ‘committee for social dialogue’ where we will talk with all parties.”

Rail connections Germany

During his visit to the port and the talks with Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam CEO, the issue of transport to and from the ports was also discussed. Kallas finds that the ports are threatening to an increasing degree to become a bottleneck in the trade flows from and to Europe, and he wants better integration of the European ports in the wider logistics chain. In particular he envisages better connection of inland shipping and the European rail corridors. The Netherlands and Belgium both have problems with connecting their freight railways to the European corridor to the Ruhr area and further: the Betuwe line and the Iron Rhine rail freight link. These are painful points in the Dutch-German relationship, and as far as the Iron Rhine rail freight link is concerned, it should be noted, between the Netherlands and Belgium. Kallas continues: “The Germans will really have to come to a decision about investing in the connection of the Betuwe line. But we can lay on a bit of pressure. How? By talking with them. That’s right, and we are talking already.” About the Iron Rhine rail freight link, about which the Netherlands is making an issue of a length of railway on Limburg ground: “That is a bilateral issue we don’t get involved in. The file has not landed on my desk yet. If it does get there, we will consider it. But first it is up to the two countries themselves.”

Kallas hopes to bring forward definitive proposals in 2013 for further deregulation of port services and more transparency and openness in the financing of port infrastructure. It won’t be a new European directive; Kallas calls it ‘a package of measures’.


Source: Port of Rotterdam, September 13, 2011