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PR(01)36: The EFTA Surveillance Authority approves compensation for maritime transport services under the “Hurtigruten agreement” (Norway)

16.9.2002

By Decision No 417/01/COL adopted on 19 December 2001, the EFTA Surveillance Authority decided not to raise objections to compensation granted under the new ”Hurtigruten Agreement”. Under this Agreement, two maritime companies, Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab ASA and Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap ASA, are entrusted with the provision of maritime transport services consisting of the combined transport of persons and goods along the coastal line from Bergen to Kirkenes, serving 34 ports of call on a daily basis throughout the year. In return, the Norwegian State will grant an annual compensation of NOK 170 million (approximately € 21 million), expressed in 1999-prices, to these companies. The new agreement will enter into force on 1 January 2002 and will, in principle, have a duration of three years (until 31 December 2004).

The Authority approved the compensation provided for under the new “Hurtigruten Agreement” based on Article 59 (2) of the EEA Agreement. This provision allows for exemptions from the general prohibition of State aid laid down in Article 61 (1), insofar as the application of the State aid provisions would obstruct the performance of services in the general economic interest.

The Authority accepted that the transport service as defined in the “Hurtigruten Agreement” could be regarded as a service of general economic interest. It further verified that the compensation granted under the new “Hurtigruten Agreement” was limited to the amount necessary to cover the deficit generated by the provision of maritime transport services as laid down in the “Hurtigruten Agreement”.

In the course of the proceedings, and in order to introduce fair competition as regards maritime cabotage services, the Norwegian Government has given the commitment to carry out an open, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure for the provision of maritime transport services along the coast between Bergen and Kirkenes. The Authority took note that, according to the Norwegian Government, a total period of three years was regarded as necessary to carry out that process in an adequate way. Accordingly, the duration of the new “Hurtigruten Agreement” was limited to three years.

The new Agreement may be extended for up to one additional year, should such a prolongation be necessary in order to allow the carrier(s) selected under the open, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure to prepare for the start of operations on the route(s) concerned. Any such prolongation is subject to the Authority’s prior approval.

For further information, please contact Mr. Utne (tel.: (02) 286.18.50) or Mrs. Antoniadis (tel.: (02) 286.18.52).

 

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