Port concessions are still at a dead end
According to the Antitrust Authority, the vacatio of the ministerial regulation is still taking its toll. As concerns technical-nautical services, the Authority advocates the opening to the market
Just before Roberto Rustichelli replaced former president Giovanni Pitruzzella, the Antitrust Authority published its annual report (signed by its president-in-office Gabriella Muscolo) about “Concessions and competitive issues” addressed to the presidency of the Italian Council, Parliament, Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports and Ministry of Economic Development.
Maritime and port concessions are not among the main “causes for concern with regards to competition”. However, the Authority pointed out that, due to the failure to publish the decree about to regulation governing concessions provided for by the law 84 of 1994 on the part of the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports, “there are still uncertainties about the lawful methods to complete procedures concerning the awarding of port concessions and about the obligations imposed on administrations granting them”.
Having recalled that it already exercised its advocacy powers, pointing out that “the general principle of the more profitable use of the property for public interest purposes referred to in Article 37 of the Code of Navigation should be specified with regards to the actual subject matter, from time to time, through the ex-ante identification of objective, adequate and exact criteria”, the Antitrust Authority welcomed the implementation of some of its instructions on the part of the ministerial directive adopted last February.
According to the Authority, “the ministerial initiative still depends on a 'contractual' mechanism where operators suggest an initiative (or a development) related to an existing work to the competent authority, taking into account the criteria published by the latter to evaluate the application”.
However, according to the Antitrust Authority – which welcomed also the related activity of the Transport Regulation Authority, thus proving that, despite several years of delay, they are heading towards a precompetitive model for the selection of new port infrastructures concessionaires” – Port Authorities should “carry out public tenders without necessarily having to wait for the interested parties’ applications”, as well as “implement the instructions provided by regulators and define, clearly and in advance, fair and non-discriminatory criteria to access and use the infrastructures”.
They believe that “a review of the regulation is needed so that, combined with the general principle related to the strategic development of the Italian maritime system, it fully exploits state properties by entrusting them to the best concessionaire, upon both initial and subsequent awarding. To that end, a clarification of roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders within the sector is needed”.
As concerns the technical-nautical services, they advocate an overturning of the current situation: “According to the Authority, where service features allow only a small number of enterprises to operate, the awarding should be done by public tender. On the contrary, where competition is possible, the performance of services should be carried out through the mere issue of authorization acts”.