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Title: The supply of shipping services
Sectors of Transport: Transport, Internal market, Competition, Maritime & inland waterways, Single market for services, Competition rules by sector
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The supply of shipping services

The supply of shipping services



The freedom to provide services is one of the European Union’s basic principles. However, the maritime transport sector sometimes finds that non-EU countries impose restrictions and conditions, such as cargo-sharing. These substantially increase transport costs and can damage overall EU trade.


It confirms that the freedom to provide services applies to maritime transport within the European Union and between EU and non-EU countries. It sets out the conditions under which this principle applies. It gradually abolishes earlier restrictions and prevents new ones being introduced.


  • EU maritime transport companies may carry passengers or freight to any port or off-shore installation (such as oil or gas platforms) within or outside the EU.
  • The same right applies to companies based outside the EU provided they are owned by an EU national and registered in the EU.
  • Unilateral national restrictions in force before 1 July 1986 were to be phased out between 31 December 1989 and 1 January 1993.
  • Cargo-sharing arrangements in bilateral agreements between EU and non-EU countries must be phased out or readjusted.
  • EU governments had to report to the European Commission initially every 6 months and later on an annual basis on the changes being introduced to earlier agreements.
  • An EU country having problems in adjusting an existing agreement must inform the Council of Ministers and the Commission.
  • Cargo-sharing arrangements in any future agreements with non-EU countries are not allowed unless, in exceptional circumstances, not having these arrangements would prevent an EU company from plying for the trade.


1 January 1987.


Internal market - free access to ocean trade


Council Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 of 22 December 1986 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport between Member States and between Member States and third countries



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86



OJ L 378, 31.12.1986, pp. 1-3

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EEC) No 3573/90



OJ L 353, 17.12.1990, p. 16


Council Regulation (EEC) No 4058/86 of 22 December 1986 concerning coordinated action to safeguard free access to cargoes in ocean trades (OJ L 378, 31.12.1986, pp. 21-23)

last update 30.09.2015

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