Before the UK referendum on continued membership of the EU was decided, there was plenty of speculation as to what the effect on shipping might be. With negotiations on the terms of the UK’s exit soon to get underway, thoughts are turning to what the realities may be.
This week ECSA, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations published its wish list for what should be on the table. According to ECSA, the shipping community embodies a fundamental acquis of the EU: Free movement of goods and persons. ECSA believes that the current operating climate should be preserved as much as possible even after the Brexit.
“European shipowners strongly believe that to the extent possible, EU and UK should aim for conformity in legislation relating to maritime affairs”, said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “It should really be recognised as a guiding objective for the Brexit negotiations”, he added.
In the short term, EU shipowners have three immediate priorities that should be given due attention throughout the process:
- frictionless traffic by sea between the UK and the EU
- free movement of seafarers, onshore staff and passengers and
- continued market access to the domestic trades and the offshore sector
An overall concern of EU shipowners relates to their competitiveness, among others in the fiscal area. With a possible new, attractive shipping centre just across the Channel, there is ever more reason to look at the EU’s shipping policy and ensure the EU remains a competitive location for shipping companies to do business.
The short term aims are probably shared by both EU and UK operators but the longer term concerns of EU shipowners would seem to be valid. Over a long period and still today, the EU has generally pursued a political strategy that could hardly be said to be shipping friendly.
While there is probably little that can be done at this stage with regards to matters such as the EU’s determination to force shipping into its emission trading system regardless of flag state, there are other issues where operating under an EU flag places owners at a disadvantage. Depending on how the UK decides to treat shipping in future there could well be advantages to EU shipping companies to move operations to the UK with its shipping centre heritage.