The European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) and the International Transport Forum have called on the EU Commission to revise Community State Aid Guidelines for maritime transport to make them more transparent and effective in terms of job creation, reflagging, and training and education for European-domiciled seafarers.
A joint ETF/ITF report found limited evidence that maritime subsidies achieve their stated aims, for example in defending domestic ship registers and seafarer employment.
'Reorientation of maritime subsidy policies could improve outcomes and halt a race to the bottom between subsidy regimes,' the report found.
'Global convergence of reforms would be the ideal for ensuring a level playing field for competing flags but incremental improvements could be achieved and subsidies would be more effective if their objectives were clarified and they were made conditional on positive impacts, e.g. on decarbonisation and employment.'
The report said the most economically distorting schemes should be the priority for reform.
'The report will be a wake-up call to European policymakers, as the OECD-ITF analysis confirms what workers and their unions have long suspected: maritime subsidies are failing to achieve their desired objectives,' ETF acting general secretary Livia Spera said.
The report gives an overview of direct and indirect subsidies available to maritime transport in Organization for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, including all EU member states, and assesses whether they provide value for taxpayers’ money.
'Unless this system is totally reformed, European shipping will need financial support,' International Transport Worders Federation general secretary Stephen Cotton said. 'The question for maritime subsidies in European shipping is not an if but how. Europe must support the sector but in a different and more efficient way to actively support job creation and training for European domiciled seafarers.'
Nautilus deputy general secretary Marcel van den Broek said: ‘Although the situation varies greatly from country to country, it can be concluded in general from the report that fiscal support measures are desperately needed in order not to lose the battle with open registers. But also, that in many cases, these subsidies can be used differently and better.
'This is certainly the case in Europe when it comes to safeguarding maritime jobs for Europeans and thus preserving maritime knowledge in Europe.
'It would also do no harm to look again at the effectiveness of subsidies for short-sea connections, because the current subsidies granted do not succeed sufficiently in leading more intra-European transport from the road to shipping.’
The 'Maritime Subsidies; Do they provide value for money?' was released on September 17.
It was written by Olaf Merk with co-authorship by Lucie Kirstein and Vatsalya Sohu at the International Transport Forum. The report was paid for by the International Transport Workers Federation.