UKMPG organised a Seminar in the European Parliament on 13 October 2015, titled "Encouraging Growth and Investment in European Ports". The event was hosted by Lucy Anderson MEP and brought together key industry and institution stakeholders to discuss the future of European ports policy. The seminar also explored the 'red lines' of various stakeholders in the negotiations over the Port Services Regulation proposal, which is currently going through first reading in the European Parliament.
James Cooper, Chief Executive of Associated British Ports and Deputy Chairman of UKMPG, concentrated on the central importance of private investment to the port sector, stating that "the European Union has an important role to play in enabling and supporting investment, both in the ports and in the hinterland. What the ports sector needs is a stable business environment in which investors can have long term confidence. However, we feel that the Port Services Regulation proposal, even with the compromises currently being discussed, will still jeopardise the conditions necessary for long-term investment and growth." He went on to stress that this is not just an issue for the UK, but also for Europe as a whole.
The host of the seminar, Lucy Anderson MEP, stated "The Commission's 'one-size-fits-all' proposal for a new port services regulation failed to recognise the complexity and diversity of the EU's port sector. Although UK Labour MEPs and the Socialists and Democrats Group are working hard to mitigate the Commission's approach, this legislation remains a blunt instrument with very little added value. I will continue to work with all like-minded colleagues in the Parliament to get a better deal for industry, workers and the environment, but ultimately I am not convinced that this regulation will help us achieve a European ports sector that is fit for the future."
Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) set out three red lines for European ports policy that are important to ESPO members, namely "the autonomy of ports in determining their own charging structures, transparency of public funding and the full implementation of the internal market in the maritime sector".
Rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein said that "[he had] listened to the all the views put forward by stakeholders, but that it was now up to the members of the European Parliament Transport Committee to see if they can reach a workable compromise on the Port Services Regulation proposal". Mr Fleckenstein re-stated his assertion that "unless the European Commission finally committed to publishing a framework for state aid in the port sector", he would consider voting against his own report.
Other speakers contributing to the event included Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid, Secretary General of the Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT); Dimitrios Theologitis, head of the Ports and Inland Waterways Unit at DG MOVE; Bryan Watts, a UNITE trade union representative from the Bristol Port Company; and Sotiris Raptis, Shipping Officer at Transport & Environment.