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Mobility and Transport
News article22 September 2016Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport2 min read

Maritime transport: Commission clarifies EU rules on cabotage and reports on developments in this sector


Maritime transport: Commission clarifies EU rules on cabotage and reports on developments in this sector

The European Commission has given new guidance on the interpretation of the regulation to provide cabotage within a Member State , thus providing an internal market for the provision of maritime transport services. With the new guidance competent authorities will have more legal certainty when awarding public service contracts and imposing public service obligations. Shipowners will also benefit from more legal clarity, allowing them to better organise their business in Europe.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Mobility and Transport, said: "The internal market for maritime transport services is important to the performance of the European economy and for the quality of life and prosperity of maritime regions. Member States' authorities need clear rules on how to ensure adequate links to islands and peripheral regions that are particularly dependent on maritime transport. We have listened very carefully to where clarification was needed. These updated interpretative guidelines provide this clarity and will enhance legal certainty for all maritime cabotage actors in the EU."

The new guidance updates the previous Commission's guidance in order to align it to recent EU law and case-law of the Court of Justice. In future, there will be more flexibility in defining the duration of public service contracts. The new guidance is presented in the interest of transparency and legal certainty to help explain the EU rules to all actors that wish to make use of it.

Amongst other things the interpretative communication adopted today provides updated guidance on:

  • the scope of the freedom to provide services in the maritime cabotage sector
  • who enjoys that freedom and which services the Regulation covers,
  • the award procedure for public service contracts,
  • the duration of public service contracts,
  • the manning rules on vessels providing maritime cabotage,
  • the application of Regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council on public passenger transport services by rail and by road and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No. 1191/69 and 1107/70 to maritime cabotage services,
  • transitional arrangements for Croatia.

Member States and stakeholders were fully involved and consulted in the process of preparation of the report and the new interpretative guidelines.

Today, the Commission has also presented its fifth report on the freedom to provide services to maritime transport within Member States (maritime cabotage).

Almost all cabotage services in the EU have been liberalised from 1 January 1999. The Greek market, which was among the last to be partly protected, has been opened up to competition since 1 November 2002. Croatia is the only Member State that still can apply the temporary derogation from certain provisions of the Regulation, until 31 December 2014.

Regarding market developments, the Commission has reported that until 2007, the maritime cabotage market in the EU recorded a continuous increase in volumes of goods and numbers of passengers transported in several countries. Since 2008 it has experienced a considerable decline, due to the impact of the economic crisis.

Facts and figures

As in previous years, the greatest market for cargo traffic is that of the United Kingdom and Spain (each around 80 million tonnes a year), followed by that of Italy (around 60 million tonnes). Liquid bulk continues to lead in terms of cargo transported.

Regarding passengers, Greece has the greatest traffic (60 million passengers a year), followed by Italy (40 million passengers).

Finally, according to the available data the penetration of the national markets by vessels flying non-national flags has slightly increased in the cabotage of cargo in three Member States, while it remains limited in the cabotage of passengers.


Publication date
22 September 2016
Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport