State support from Belgium and Germany grants the seaports in these countries an «unfair» competitive edge compared to Rotterdam, claims Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Dutch minister for infrastructure and the environment.
The seas are becoming choppier in container transport. Not only are shipping lines defending their market shares with greater vigour than ever before, the competition between the top 3 European container ports is also heating up (see ITJ 01-04/2014, p. 15). Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Dutch minister for infrastructure and the environment, most recently had some strong words to say about the matter: due to the state support provided by the Belgian and German governments to their relevant seaports, the latter benefit from an «unfair» competitive edge over the port of Rotterdam.
In her criticism, the minister referred to the study entitled Level playing field, which was commissioned by the Dutch ministry for infrastructure and the environment and produced by the RHV Erasmus University in collaboration with the Ecorys consultancy. According to the study, Europe’s biggest seaport loses nearly 1 million teu per year in its container business because the public coffers in Germany and Belgium are being opened to subsidise its competitors in these two countries. The study claims that without this support, Rotterdam would handle 7% more containers per year. If the costs for dredging the rivers of the Elbe, Schelde and Maas are also factored in, the proportion even rises to 10% according to the study, as the minister writes in a letter to the Dutch parliament which is available to the ITJ. It is claimed that the Flemish ports receive EUR 0.54 per t/year from their government and German ports receive EUR 0.81 if the dredging of the relevant rivers for access to the ports is not taken into account. The Dutch ports, however, do not receive anything.
Allard Castelein, chief executive officer of the port authority in Rotterdam, is unimpressed and says: «The port authority in Rotterdam finances investments in its infrastructure itself, while the governments in Germany and Flanders absorb at least part of the losses of their respective ports. This results in a distortion of the market, with the effect that Rotterdam loses cargo volumes, in particular to the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg.»