The Commission has adopted a working document describing State aid rules and Public Service Obligations rules applicable to the maritime transport sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document provides useful guidance on which measures are considered as State aid and which are not.
Public remit services normally performed by the State in the exercise of its public powers such as operating special crossings for the purpose of repatriation of nationals, transporting people for medical reasons or military activities do not constitute State aid if the beneficiary of the aid does not perform any economic activity.
Moreover, the imposition of a Public Service Obligation to EU shipowners to provide maritime transport services or to manage port infrastructures can be qualified as a Service of General Economic Interest and thus, not constitute State aid. Member States need to clearly ensure that the four criteria of the Altmark judgment are fulfilled, by defining:
- the essential route(s) to be maintained active (or in the case of port infrastructure, the essential port services);
- the respective minimum required frequency (in terms of connections) and volumes (in terms of passenger numbers, linear meters or other) (or in the case of port infrastructure, the quantity and quality of services to be safeguarded).
- the necessity of the measure (severe and unforeseeable decrease in passenger, losses of passenger due to COVID),
- the duration of the contract, which shall not exceed three to six months and should not extend beyond 31 December 2020.
- ex ante financial parameters and control of overcompensation
- the level of compensation paid which corresponds to the least cost to the community by choosing the maritime operator pursuant to a public procurement procedure.