BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission said on Friday it had concluded that deals struck between the state-owned Port of Antwerp and two container terminals operating there did not involve state aid.
The port, which is fully owned by the city of Antwerp, concluded 42-year concession agreements with operators PSA Antwerp NV [PSAIN.UL] and Antwerp Gateway NV [DPWRD.UL] in 2004 for container shipments.
The agreements were similar to the contracts awarded to other container terminal operators and included a requirement that a minimum quantity of containers is handled each year.
Between 2009 and 2012, the operators did not reach the yearly minimum tonnage requirements and would have been expected to pay compensation to the port. However, the port decided in 2013 to revise down the minimum requirements, resulting in a reduction by 80 percent of the compensation due.
The Commission opened an investigation in 2016 following a complaint from a competitor.
It found that the port had acted in the same way as a private operator. An adjustment was justified because of the economic crisis, because the operators were still in a start-up phase and because they were key customers of the port.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)