Brussels, 11.03.2014 C(2014) 1289 final
PUBLIC VERSION This document is made available for information purposes only.
State aid SA.35720 (2014/NN) (ex 2012/PN) – United Kingdom Liverpool City Council Cruise Liner Terminal
On 9 June 2011, the Associated British Ports ("ABP"), a UK ports group and the operator of i.a. cruise terminals, expressed concerns in respect of funding provided by public authorities in the UK to the Liverpool City Council ("LCC", "the Council") to build the Liverpool City Council Cruise Liner Terminal ("the Terminal") and of the proposals for a change of use of the Terminal. The case was registered as SA. 34194 (2012/CP) – Alleged aid to Liverpool Cruise Terminal. ABP requested the Commission, in particular, to seek further information from the UK Government on the nature and status on the above proposals.
Between 29 July 2011 and 4 June 2013, ABP made further submissions with additional information to substantiate the complaint. The Commission requested information from the UK authorities between 8 August 2011 and 24 October 2012, in order to clarify the facts alleged by the complainant.
On 1 October 2012 the Commission communicated to the complainant its preliminary findings concerning the proposed change of use of the Terminal and informed that at that moment it was not in a position to take a view as regards the application of State aid rules to the alleged measures.
The Rt Hon William HAGUE Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Foreign and Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH United Kingdom Commission européenne, B-1049 Bruxelles/Europese Commissie, B-1049 Brussel – Belgium Telephone: 00- 32 (0) 2 299.11.11.
In reaction to the complaint, on 15 November 2012 the UK authorities prenotified the infrastructure investment in the Terminal, which was registered as SA.35720 (2012/PN) – Liverpool City Council Cruise Liner Terminal. The UK authorities had the aim to seek legal certainty as they considered that the public funding for the Terminal did not involve State aid within the meaning of Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ("TFEU"). The Commission requested additional information on 3 April 2013, 14 June 2013 and 17 June 2013 to which the UK replied on 13 June 2013, 24 June 2013 and 12 July 2013. The complainant also submitted further information.
Since the information available showed that the public funding had already been disbursed, on 3 February 2014, the Commission informed the UK that as a result of the violation of the stand-still clause laid down in Article 3 of Council Regulation No 659/1999, the aid measure had been registered as unlawful aid (2014/NN) and the procedural rules applicable would be those laid down in Chapter III thereof.
In 2006 the Council received public funding of GBP 17.8 million from the UK local authorities ("UK grant") and the European Regional Development Fund (“ERDF”) for the construction of the Terminal.
In order to alleviate competition concerns and to meet the requirements of the UK ports policy, the UK grant was awarded with, as explained by the UK authorities, an "implicit understanding" that the Terminal would be used only as a "port of call". Ports of call handle only transit vessels, in contrast to "turnaround ports" where cruise journeys start and end. The latter are considered more attractive as they generate more income for cruise terminal operators. The ERDF grant was not subject to any restriction on the use of the Terminal.
The Terminal began operations in 2007 as a port of call. By 2009, however, LCC sought permission from the UK Government to use the Terminal