Brussels, 10 July 2007
This investigation has been launched in the wake of a request from Denmark to be allowed to give dredging and cable-laying companies the right to benefit from an aid scheme which has until now been reserved for seagoing ships registered in the Danish International Shipping (DIS) register. The scheme exempts shipowners from having to pay income tax and social security contributions for the seafarers they employ.
The Commission has doubts about whether the laying of cables at sea can be regarded as a maritime transport activity. This question is an important one, because the Community guidelines on State aid for maritime transport limit such aid schemes to maritime transport activities.
It also wonders whether all dredging activities constitute maritime transport activities, and therefore whether they are eligible for maritime transport aid, as the Danish authorities consider.
The Commission is of the opinion that "maritime transport" should be interpreted strictly, in the light of Community law, as recently stated in the judgment of the Court of Justice of 11 January 2007 in Case C-251/04 Commission v Greece.
That is why the Commission has initiated an investigation into the extension of the aid scheme to cover dredging and cable-laying activities at sea.