The European shipping industry has an active interest in following developments related to the State Aid Guidelines for Maritime Transport (SAGs). SAGs constitute the framework of allowable aid measures of the EU for the shipping sector. Their purpose is to allow the sector to compete internationally, by providing a list of possible benefits (e.g. vessel taxation, social security contribution, maritime education), from which member states may choose according to their resources and the particular characteristics of their shipping sectors. They do not constitute a “one size fits all” model, but a flexible framework that should remain fit-for-purpose. Since their primary aim is to address the international competitiveness of EU shipping - not intra-EU competition - and accommodate national particularities, strict uniformity is inappropriate and out of context.

SAGs have so far been successful in stemming de-flagging from EU registers and meeting intense international competition. However, the findings of the Monitor Deloitte “EU Shipping Competitiveness Study” (February 2017) reveal that the SAGs are not responsive enough to the international challenges and due to the inherently high mobility of the shipping industry, there is the risk of relocation of shipping activities away from Europe and of de-flagging of ships from EU flags. Hence, the European Commission should identify the shortfalls of the overall EU shipping regime, fiscal and regulatory, that place European shipowners at a competitive disadvantage.

Therefore, while monitoring the application of the SAGs by the member states, the European Commission must not lose sight of the strategic, commercial and international dimension of EU shipping.

The largest share of EU shipping is cross-trading, carrying cargoes between third countries, while the EU relies on international shipping for 75% of all its trade with the rest of the world. The critical dependence of EU energy supply and of EU essential raw materials supplies on seaborne transportation demonstrates the vital importance of EU shipping for the welfare of the EU and its people.