Private investment in ports: more than money
Private investments in all sectors of the economy have proven to be not only important but also critical to the success of many projects. This is also the case in the port sector.
Private port companies and seaport terminals have injected several billion Euros to enhance European ports’ attractiveness and their competitiveness. These investments concern superstructure i.e., equipment as well as training, intermodal solutions, and all initiatives that optimize operations in ports. The building, management and maintenance of infrastructure including alternative fuels infrastructure are the responsibility of the Member States and their representatives, i.e., managing bodies of ports or port authorities. The confusion, which for instance prevails in the context of the discussions on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation regarding the responsibilities of different stakeholders in ports, can actually be easily solved by having a look at two important pieces of legislation, namely the Port Services Regulation and the Global Block Exemption Regulation.
Expectations from private actors to invest more funds to modernize EU ports should nevertheless be mirrored by more constructive and business friendly port governance rules and practices. More efforts are needed to really involve private investors in the discussions regarding development projects.
The decision of some port authorities to get involved in commercial activities whereby they compete with private port companies and terminals can also be a source of distortion of competition and far from the role of facilitators that many of port authorities want to privilege. This confusion of roles can ultimately discourage private actors to invest in a sustainable manner.
Private port companies and terminals are real allies in the development of attractive and competitive ports, but they cannot cope with a situation whereby their financial investments are welcome but not their views nor their recommendations. Governance rules should be subject to regular 360° evaluations to make sure that they are fit for purpose and serve the needs and expectations of port service providers and customers.
The necessity to invest in the multimodal connectivity of ports has also been discussed in Marseille in the framework of EUROMARITIME 2022, an important international fair gathering many representatives of maritime related industries. The roundtable on the causes of disruption in the maritime logistics chain again offered all participants the opportunity to agree that more commitments from the seaside to respect schedules are a must and that investments in additional capacities and hinterland transport infrastructure are very much needed to allow ports to breathe.
The relevant on field experience of private port companies and terminals which are since the start of COVID 19 and even more today with the terrible situation in Ukraine or the one resulting from the lockdown in Shanghai under very high pressure, can also be useful when discussing the next TEN-T priorities. FEPORT members look forward to having the opportunity to exchange with the EU Commission about rail freight corridors, inland waterways connections to ports, road transport and multimodal connectivity even after the TEN-T Days 2022 in Lyon.