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Europe hits out at Korean maritime state funding

SEA Europe and European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the trade associations representing respectively European shipbuilding and maritime equipment and European shipowners, have hit out again at state aid being dished out to Asian yards and lines, arguing that it is making an unlevel playing field for European maritime firms. The pair have focused their ire this time on South Korea where state funding is helping restructure and save many struggling yards and lines.

The two groups welcomed the recent statement from EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström against unfair trade practices in Asia. SEA Europe and ECSA have now called upon the European Commission and the EU member states to take concrete and decisive actions against such practices and in favour of a true global level playing field for the European industry.

“Market-oriented conditions, rules-based trade, and open markets are essential to allow European shipping, shipbuilding and marine equipment companies to operate internationally,” the pair stated in a release.

SEA Europe secretary general Christophe Tytgat said: “The latest support measures from South Korea are clearly an example of unfair competitive distortions. By creating artificial demands through state aid, South Korea has regrettably contributed to today’s severe overcapacity in merchant shipbuilding and merchant shipping, with dramatic, far-reaching consequences for all market players, first for European shipbuilding and now also for European shipowners and the entire maritime value chain. Europe now needs to be vigilant that the same unfair trade practices with the same potential devastating effects are not repeated in other shipbuilding and shipping segments”.

ECSA secretary general Martin Dorsman commented: “The South Korean reform plan is greatly concerning for the European shipowners and shipbuilding industry. These measures create an uneven playing field, hamper the free and equal access to international maritime transport and contribute to the global overcapacity. Part of this plan is also the support to secure stable cargoes for Korean flagged vessels, which is a flag reservation measure of a particularly protectionist character. At a time that protectionist trends are rising, we ask Europe to send a strong message in support of free, fair and rules-based trade.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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