The European Commission has approved the prolongation until end 2022 of various Belgian support measures for maritime transport. The scheme encourages shipping companies to register their ships in Europe and so ensure higher social, environmental and safety standards. Belgium has also committed to a number of changes to its scheme to prevent any discrimination between shipping companies and registries of different European Economic Area (EEA) States and to avoid undue competition distortions.
Under the Belgian scheme, a shipping company is taxed on the basis of ship tonnage (i.e. based on size of shipping fleet) rather than the actual profits of the company. In particular, tonnage taxation will be applied to a shipping company’s
The Belgian scheme requires that if a shipping company wants to benefit from the scheme, a significant part of its fleet flies the flag of an EU or EEA State.
The Commission assessed the amended measures under EU State aid rules. It concluded that the Belgian scheme is in line with EU State aid rules, because it will provide incentives to maintain maritime jobs within the EU, whilst preserving competition within the EU Single Market.
Asked by The Brussels Times about the taxation of shipping companies in Greece, which was a controversial issue in the bailout discussions two years ago, and whether any follow-up has been carried out since then, a Commission spokesperson referred (6 November) to a set of proposals which were sent to Greece in December 2015.
“Our concerns are that the Greek tonnage tax system is not well targeted and benefits the shareholders of shipping companies as well as companies other than maritime shipping companies, beyond what is permitted under the 2004 Maritime Guidelines,” the spokesperson explained. “We continue to be in contact with the Greek authorities on this.”
The Brussels Times