Background to EU Ports Law

The European Commission has intervened in ports in an ad hoc manner for many years particularly through the means of competition law.  Its attempts to create a formal regime have not been very successful to date.  Indeed, its proposals to adopt legislation have even met with angry protests on the streets of Brussels by dockworkers.

It is useful to trace the background so as to understand the current position.

On 13 February 2001, the Commission adopted its first legislative “Ports Package”. This included a Communication entitled Reinforcing Quality Service in Sea Ports: A Key for European Transport and a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Market Access to Port Services. The proposal met with a hostile reaction in some quarters.  Ultimately, on 20 November 2003, after almost three years of sectoral and institutional disagreements, the European Parliament voted in plenary session to reject the compromise text of the proposed Directive.

The Commission was not deterred.  On 1 October 2004, the Commission made another proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on market access to port services.  However, on 18 January 2006, that proposal was also rejected at first reading by the European Parliament so the Commission withdrew that proposal.

On 18 October 2007, following a consultation with stakeholders, the Commission adopted a Communication on the European Ports Policy which identified the main causes of the challenges faced by the sector.

On 23 May 2013, the Commission adopted its second Ports Package. This Package included a proposal for a Regulation establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports. It is part of the key action on maritime transport announced in the Single Market Act II adopted by the Commission in October 2012.  On 8 October 2014, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council adopted a general approach on the proposal.  The next step would be for the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) to adopt a report on the proposal.  It is slowly making its way through the EU system!

For further information: contact Dr Vincent Power ( or any member of A&L Goodbody’s EU, Competition & Procurement or Shipping Law teams.