EU Commission approves tonnage tax scheme

Denmark and other EU countries have now received the EU Commission's approval of the tonnage tax scheme following several years of scrutiny.
Photo: Colourbox
Photo: Colourbox

The EU Commission has ruled that the so-called state-aid guidelines, that form the basis of the tonnage tax scheme, will not be subject to change. A spokesman from the EU's Directorate-General for Competition has confirmed this to ShippingWatch.

The EU Commission has been scrutinizing the scheme for years, and a ruling was expected from the Commission already back in 2011. And in this light, shipowners are very pleased that the current tonnage tax scheme and the legislation that forms the basis of, among others, the Danish International Ship Register (DIS) can remain in place.

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"This is a milestone for us. This development marks a crucial clarification for the sector," Jan Fritz Hansen, vice president of the Danish Shipowners' Association, tells ShippingWatch.

He refers to the fact that the EU countries operating with the tonnage tax scheme have been able to sustain or expand their maritime industries, whereas countries without the tonnage tax, such as Sweden, have lost a large portion of their nationally flagged fleet. Among Danish carriers, especially the ones based in Copenhagen, there is almost unanimous agreement that the tonnage tax and DIS are the two key reasons carriers are opting to keep their activities in Denmark.

"The EU Commission has turned every stone during this process, and finally decided to let the scheme continue in its current form. This is absolutely crucial. The key issue is that direct state aid is banned, but indirect support is welcome," explains Jan Fritz Hansen.

However, the EU Commission will not let all the countries administrate the state aid. 3-4 countries, including Malta and Greece, will be followed closely, as they have a long history of violating the rules, according to the EU.

Even though the shipping companies are generally very pleased with the approval of the tonnage tax scheme and DIS, the Danish Shipowners' Association is already debating ways in which DIS can be expanded to cover more ship types, such as wind mill installation ships and various offshore vessels. The rules approved by the EU are already several years old, and the shipowners want to see more ships covered by the ship register.

"We're discussing the matter with the Commission, and what we're hearing through the pipes is that they're sympathetic toward our views," says Jan Fritz Hansen.

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