ANFAC, the Spanish association of car and lorry manufacturers, as well as other carmakers, have criticised the Spanish government’s decision to reject a proposal to liberalise the country’s port services.
ANFAC claims that the state has reneged on a prior commitment to liberalise port services, under pressure from port workers, at eight of the country’s ports which would have encouraged greater competitiveness for the automotive industry.
The initial proposal included the possibility that the handling of vehicles could be carried out by groups not affiliated with stevedore unions. But following threats of strike action by the union members, new amendments have been made to the legislation that ANFAC has said are “complex and difficult to interpret”, and which introduce significant changes that invalidate the initial proposal.
The original legislation would have removed handling rights for ro-ro goods from stevedores, but these have now been amended to allow stevedores from the existing pool of dockworkers to continue be used to handle ro-ro trades.
In an official statement addressing the country’s new ports law ANFAC said, “if the final legislation does not include modifications that will get more competitive improvements for the automobile sector, we would be losing a great opportunity to contribute to greater competitiveness in logistics costs that have an impact on our industry.”
The port review was one of three proposals to lower the country’s high logistics costs, which it is claimed add 25% to vehicle assembly costs. The new laws are also aimed at improving the competitiveness of the country’s ports, with the Spanish government predicting they will lead to 2.5% annual growth. Further proposals target the rail and road transport networks.
ANFAC said that the failure to move toward liberalisation at the ports would encourage manufacturers to make less use of them and seek alternative routes, especially if rail transport improves quickly.
“A great opportunity has been lost,” said ANFAC managing director Luis Valero.
Spanish carmaker Seat said its views were in line with those of ANFAC.
Adding to the criticism, ECG president Costantino Baldissara's, who is also the commercial and logistics director for Grimaldi Lines, told Automotive Logistics News that the association of finished vehicle logistics was in favour of measures that might improve the efficiency and productivity of all modes of transport.
“In this context, I believe the Spanish government's decision represents a missed opportunity, both for vehicle logistics in Spain and for the Spanish economy in general,” said Baldissara. “I would urge Spain's port operators to continue their efforts to increase the efficiency of their facilities, the better to improve the competitiveness of the entire vehicle logistics chain."
ANFAC was keen to remind the government that in 2009 the eight Spanish ports affected – Vigo, Santander, Bilbao, Barcelona, Pasajes, Tarragona, Sagunto, Valencia and Malaga – moved a total of 2m vehicles despite a difficult economic climate.
Wider protests about the Spanish government’s new austerity measures brought the country to a standstill on Tuesday, including strike action at the country’s ports. The government announced a €15 billion austerity package last month in an effort to prevent it following Greece into financial crisis, cutting civil service salaries by 5% this year and freezing them next year. The measures are part of a plan to bring Spain’s budget deficit down from 11.2% of GDP in 2009 to 9.3% this year and 6% in 2011.