The news that Sweden will get a tonnage tax next year were eagerly awaited by the country's biggest shipping group - Stena AB.
"Sweden is one of the last countries in Europe to introduce this kind of tax. We have for a long time been trying to secure equal conditions, preferably on a global scale, but at least in terms of the EU, and this tax represents an important step forward in these efforts. The introduction of a tonnage tax scheme in Sweden is essential in keeping the remaining maritime sector alive, and it will hopefully attract new shipping companies to the country. This is positive for Stena, as we'd like to be part of a bigger and growing cluster," Claes Berglund, Director of Public Affairs & Sustainability at Stena AB, tells ShippingWatch.
Stena Group, which operates a long line of shipping activities, especially in tanker and ferries, currently has 12 ships flagged in Sweden, and the group is thus the carrier with the most ships sailing under Swedish flag. The new tonnage tax scheme will not immediately make Stena transfer more ships to the Swedish flag.
"We are continuously evaluating various possibilities, and for the ferries we normally use a flag from one of the countries we sail to. The decision to introduce a tonnage tax will not at this time have a direct impact on our flags, but it might, in the future, increase Sweden's chances of having more ships sailing under Swedish flag," says Claes Berglund.
For the Swedish government to truly succeed in building a strong maritime cluster, it will take more than just introducing a tonnage tax, according to Stena.
"Tonnage tax is a key element in the efforts to build a bigger Swedish maritime cluster, but it's going to take more this, and we're pleased with the new maritime strategy that was presented last week and we look forward to contributing to these efforts. We hope this will result in a growing maritime sector," says Claes Berglund.
Tonnage tax underway for years
A Swedish tonnage tax scheme has been underway since 2008 when the Swedish shipowners' association first brought the matter to the attention of the country's politicians. And now it looks like the Swedish shipowners will get a tonnage tax that will in nature be similar to the ones in Norway and Denmark. At any rate, the Swedish government, through minister of infrastructure Anna Johansson, on Tuesday this week announced that Sweden will introduce a tonnage tax by July 1st next year.
"I am pleased that we can introduce a tonnage tax scheme to benefit the maritime cluster, and I look forward to having more ships sailing under the Swedish flag. We know that this is very important to employment in the sector," said Anna Johansson when the new tax was announced.
The EU Commission has to approve the tonnage tax scheme as it constitutes a state subsidy, and this means that a Swedish tonnage tax will come into force by July 1st 2016 at the earliest.
Ahead of the tonnage tax announcement, the Swedish government last week presented a maritime strategy plan for Sweden that will focus on shipping, environment and people in relation to maritime matters.
Several Swedish carriers such as the two smaller tanker carriers Terntank and Sirius Shipping left the Swedish ship register years ago, choosing in these companies' case to join the Danish International Ship Register instead. Jørgen Olesen, managing director at Sirius Shipping, had the following comment for ShippingWatch yesterday, Wednesday:
"Our heart lies in Sweden. So if the Swedish tonnage tax is adopted we would of course consider flagging new ships in Sweden instead of Denmark."