EU Commission extended to public funding in ports and airports the application of the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation, which enables Member States to implement a wide range of State aid measures without prior Commission approval because they are unlikely to distort competition. This amendment aims to facilitate public investments in sectors (such as ports and airports) that can play a significant role for job creation and growth whilst preserving competition. As regards airports, Member States can now make public investments in regional airports handling up to 3 million passengers per year and cover operating costs of small airports handling up to 200 000 passengers per year. With reference to ports, Member States can now make public investments of up to Euro 150 million in sea ports and up to Euro 50 million in inland ports; moreover, public authorities are now to cover the costs of dredging in ports and access waterways.
On 24th March 2017, the EU Regulation no. 352/2017 will enter into force. The Regulation sets a new regulatory framework on port services supply and introduces common rules on financial transparency, port services fees and use of port infrastructures. By the adoption of the new Regulation, EU pursues the definition of clear, equal and non-discriminatory rules in order to promote a good business strategy and ensure the compliance of port investment plans with the rules on competition providing, where necessary, for the subsidiary intervention of the EU bodies pursuant to Art. 5 of the Treaty on the European Union.
By Law 7.7.2016 no. 122, the Italian Parliament amended art. 1 of the law on the Italian International Registry of Ships (Legislative Decree 30.12.1997 n. 457) to the effect that it is now possible to register in the third section of said registry the vessels belonging to EU owners and temporarily suspended from a EU registry as a result of a bareboat to an Italian or EU entity.
By the Resolution issued on 12th January 2017 (no. 2/E), the Italian Revenue Agency, in addition to the exclusion of ships involved in salvage operations and fishing boats from benefits related to the assignment and/or performance of services (art. no. 8-bis of Italian VAT Decree), held that the VAT exemption for “ocean-going ships” can apply only where the official documentation of the previous year proves that the ship performed more than 70% of her voyages on high seas (beyond 12 nautical miles). Therefore, said Resolution implies that length and tonnage requirements formerly identified by EU Court of Justice to define the “ocean-going ships” (EUCJ, Commission/France, C-197-12) are no longer sufficient to enjoy the aforesaid exemption.
The new legal system for the recovery of civil and commercial claims, provided by EU Regulation no. 655/2014, will enter into force on 18th January 2017: before obtaining a judgement on the merits, claimants will be entitled to apply for the issuance of a European Order of conservative seizure, so as to prevent the debtor’s assets from becoming untraceable. The issuance of such Order does not require any assistance by lawyers and, once issued, it will be automatically recognized all over the European Union.
By replying to the inquiry filed by a shipping company, Italian Tax Office clarified that, if a bank partially waives the claim arising out of the loan for the construction of a ship subject to the tonnage tax regime, the relevant windfall gain follows the aforesaid regime and cannot be independently subject to IRES (Italian tax on companies income). In this respect, Italian Tax Office pointed out that, according to the tonnage tax provisions, revenues and/or losses arising out of the sale of a ship, which is subject to the relevant regime, are already included in the taxable income.
At the 97th Maritime Security Committee, The International Maritime Organization (IMO) examined the most significant issues arising out of the new requirements on certifications of the seafarers, introduced by the amendments (“Manila 2010”) to the STCW Convention that will come into force on 1st January 2017. In order to ensure the correct implementation of the new rules, IMO has recommended that, at least until 1st July 2017, a practical and flexible approach should be adopted by the national Port State Control Authorities in verifying the compliance of national certifications to the new rules.