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17 luglio 2019 Il quotidiano on-line per gli operatori e gli utenti del trasporto 12:19 GMT+2



20 dicembre 2000

Un futuro a tinte fosche per l'industria navalmeccanica mondiale

L'accentuazione dello squilibrio domanda-offerta acuirà le difficoltà in cui versa il settore

Il Council Working Party on Shipbuilding dell'OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) si è riunito il 18 e il 19 dicembre per valutare le strade da percorrere per stabilire normali condizioni di concorrenzialità nel settore cantieristico. Il gruppo di lavoro ha rilevato che l'OECD Shipbuilding Agreement rimane la soluzione migliore per raggiungere tale obiettivo, ma ha deciso di rinviare ogni ulteriore decisione in merito fino a quando l'attuale amministrazione governativa statunitense rimarrà in carica e potrà quindi chiarire la sua posizione in merito all'accordo. L'auspicio è che questo possa avvenire prima del nuovo meeting del Working Group, che si terrà il 6-7 luglio prossimi. Venuta a conoscenza della posizione USA il gruppo di lavoro potrà infatti decidere i modi migliori per ristabilire normali condizioni competitive. Modalità che però - ha rilevato nella sua dichiarazione conclusiva il presidente del Working Group, Salvatore Salerno - dovranno comunque essere rese obbligatorie e multilaterali.
Intanto, per fare un passo avanti nella ricerca dell'equilibrio del mercato, l'organismo dell'OECD ha deciso di aggiornare l'accordo del 1981 sui crediti all'esportazione di navi. Questi aggiornamenti - ha spiegato Salerno - riguarderanno principalmente la sostituzione del tasso fisso di interesse dell'8% con tassi di interesse commerciale di riferimento, estendendo il periodo di restituzione da 8,5 a 12 anni e sviluppando gli aiuti allo sviluppo. Il gruppo di lavoro spera di approvare un documento finale in merito nel corso del meeting del prossimo luglio.

Sono state inoltre valutate l'attuale e la futura situazione del mercato cantieristico, rilevando che tuttora sussistono condizioni estremamente difficili. Nonostante gli ordinativi siano risultati consistenti nel 2000 e i prezzi siano aumentati, molti costruttori non sono infatti riusciti ad ottenere margini di profitto.

Le previsioni relativa alla domanda inoltre non sono incoraggianti. Nel 2000, secondo le stime preliminari, è stata pari a circa 18,4 milioni di tonnellate di stazza lorda compensata, lievemente superiore a quella degli ultimi anni. Nella sua analisi il gruppo di lavoro ritiene che, in condizioni normali, la domanda nei prossimi cinque anni potrebbe all'inizio calare leggermente, prima di raggiungere un picco nel 2004, quando almeno 20 milioni di tslc saranno necessarie per soddisfare le richieste dell'industria marittima. Questo innalzamento della produzione potrebbe raggiungere i 21,7 milioni di tonnellate di stazza lorda compensata se le proposte dell'International Maritime Organization (IMO) relative alla messa al bando delle petroliere a scafo singolo saranno varate.
Tale aumento della domanda potrebbe essere soddisfatto dall'attuale capacità produttiva dei cantieri mondiali. E' invece previsto un aumento della capacità produttiva, con tassi di crescita superiori a quelli della domanda. I 19,4 milioni di tlsc richiesti dalle compagnie di navigazione nel 2005 saranno infatti realizzati da un'industria cantieristica capace di livelli di produzione nettamente superiori, pari a 26,5 milioni di tslc. Si genererà cosi un grave sbilanciamento domanda-offerta, che acuirà ulteriormente i problemi già evidenti del settore.
Il gruppo di lavoro ha inoltre espresso rammarico per l'ancora basso livello dei prezzi offerti dai cantieri nella continua ricerca di mantenere la piena attività nei loro stabilimenti. Una tendenza che contribuirà ad aggravare ancor più lo sbilanciamento domanda-offerta nei prossimi anni. Questi effetti sono già evidenziati dalla notevole consistenza degli ordinativi dei primi nove mesi di quest'anno.

Il gruppo di lavoro ha comunque preso atto del fatto che si è verificato un lieve incremento dei prezzi, per alcuni tipi di nave, dall'inizio del 1999. Aumenti che sono stati messi in stretta relazione con il recente raggiungimento del limite di produzione da parte di alcuni cantieri che hanno un orderbook pieno, ma anche per il fatto che nei mesi scorsi si è verificata una forte ripresa dell'attività marittima, con vettori che hanno riportato i guadagni più elevati degli ultimi trent'anni. Un fatto che ha incoraggiato le aziende navalmeccaniche ad aumentare i prezzi, seppure in maniera poco rilevante, visto che sono risultati ancora inferiori del 20% rispetto a quelli praticati nel 1997 e che comunque non sono serviti a garantire profitti ai cantieri.

Le previsioni permangono negative anche per il livello dei prezzi che, secondo il gruppo di lavoro, rimarranno bassi a causa in particolare della sovracapacità produttiva.

Pur non chiamando direttamente in causa l'industria cantieristica sudcoreana né quella europea, la relazione di Salvatore Salerno si chiude con un appello perché venga trovata una soluzione amichevole ai contrasti attualmente in corso nel settore cantieristico, per evitare che l'acuirsi della disputa possa danneggiare tutti gli attori del mercato.




THE AGREEMENT RESPECTING NORMAL COMPETITIVE
CONDITIONS IN THE COMMERCIAL SHIPBUILDING AND REPAIR INDUSTRY - OVERVIEW

I. Background

1. In December 1994, the Commission of the European Communities, and the Governments of Finland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Sweden and the United States signed the Final Act of the "Agreement Respecting Normal Competitive Conditions in the Commercial Shipbuilding and Repair Industry". The Agreement is scheduled to enter into force on 15 July 1996 after all Parties to it have concluded their national ratification procedures. The goal of the Agreement is to establish, in a legally binding manner, normal, i.e subsidy and dumping-free, competitive conditions in the shipbuilding industries of OECD countries and Korea. In this way, it will provide a "level playing field" for nearly 80 per cent of the world shipbuilding industry.

2. The negotiations on the Agreement were launched by the US Government in the autumn of 1989, in the framework of the OECD Council Working Party on Shipbuilding. The intention of the US Government was to create a new discipline for all government support to shipbuilding. For its part, the European Commission proposed that "unfair pricing" or dumping practices - later called 'injurious pricing' in the Agreement - also be covered. Government support and private dumping practices are thus the two targets of the Agreement. To ensure effectiveness, the Agreement was intended from the beginning of the negotiations to be legally binding, with provisions for dispute settlement, 'remedies' to be applied in case of violation, and 'sanctions' to enforce implementation of the remedies.

3. The Agreement can be seen as a response to some important features of shipbuilding, namely a strong tendency for governments to assist their industries, and a pronounced cyclicality of shipbuilding activity which induces companies in bad times to engage in low price actions, resulting in distortion of competition among countries and shipbuilding companies alike. These problems have existed for a long time and severe crises, such as in the 1970s and 1980s, have made them particularly apparent, prompting OECD governments to develop policy responses for one of the causes of distortion of competition, namely subsidies: an Understanding on Export Credits for Ships (first negotiated in 1969), a General Arrangement for the Progressive Removal of Obstacles to Normal Competitive Conditions in the Shipbuilding Industry (1972), and General Guidelines for Government Policies in the Shipbuilding Industry (1976) were concluded over the years. But their effectiveness was limited because of their non-binding nature.

4. Much hope can be placed in the Agreement Respecting Normal Competitive Conditions in the Commercial Shipbuilding and Repair Industry because of its legally binding character, because it deals with all kinds of state support - direct and indirect - and, moreover, because it also covers dumping practices of shipyards - which had been considered by some countries to be a problem that warranted the provision of offsetting subsidies. With an initial coverage of about 80 per cent of the world shipbuilding market, the Agreement can be expected to have a gravitational effect on other shipbuilding countries to accede to it in the future, thereby extending the area of fair competition beyond its initial bounderies (major other countries are Brazil, China, Poland, Russia and Ukraine).

II. Main Elements of the Agreement

Government Support

5. The Agreement sets a stringent discipline for government support to the shipbuilding industry, whether it is provided directly to the shipbuilder or indirectly through shipowners or other parties. The Agreement details, comprehensively, the kinds of support that are prohibited in the future. This includes financial support as well as administrative regulations in favour of the domestic shipbuilding industry. In practice, direct subsidies, loans and guarantees are the most important types of support. But the Agreement also prohibits other types, such as forgiveness of debts, provision of equity capital not consistent with usual investment practices, assistance to suppliers of goods and services, and others [see below: "The Agreement at a Glance"].

6. In order to prevent "last minute" support from being given, there is an understanding among the Participants to the Agreement that they will not, from the signing of the Final Act (i.e. December 1994), increase the subsidy level of existing support measures or introduce new measures, pending entry into force of the Agreement in July 1996. In the same spirit, all support, or undertaking to provide support, with regard to vessels that will be delivered after 1998, is forbidden.

7. Although the catalogue of prohibited government support is comprehensive and detailed, not all government support to the shipbuilding industry will be banned in the future. There are five exceptions, four of which are permanent. First, officially supported export credits will continue to be permitted on condition that they respect the provisions of the Understanding on Export Credits for Ships which severely limits any concessional element. This Understanding, which has existed since 1969, was revised in the context of the negotiations on the Agreement and will become effective in its revised form upon the entry into force of the Agreement. Its main new provisions are the commercial interest reference rates (replacing the hitherto fixed interest rate of 8 per cent), the repayment period of 12 years (extended from previously 8 1/2 years) to take account of the reality in ship financing, and the prohibition of aid credits for vessels that are commercially viable - in line with the 1992 revision of the OECD Arrangement on Guidelines for Officially Supported Export Credits.

8. Second, "home credits", that is, government assisted loans and guarantees to domestic buyers of ship, intended for the modernisation of the domestic fleet will be allowed, subject to a stringent discipline. Such credits may be given only if they meet specific conditions which are principally that they are no more "concessional" than permitted for export credits - the logic being to treat domestic and foreign buyers of ship in an equal manner.

9. The third and fourth exceptions are support for research and development and for shipbuilding workers losing their employment. R&D and new technologies are increasingly playing a pivotal role in the shipbuilding industry, both in the development of high performance ships and in ship construction itself. Government support for R&D activities will therefore be permitted generously, but in descending order of intensity the closer the activity is to the market. In addition, R&D undertaken by small and medium sized ship yards as well as R&D related to safety and the environment may benefit from higher than 'normal' rates. The social dimension of the Agreement is reflected in the Agreement, in that it permits support to be provided to workers who lose their employment or retirement benefits. Finally, the shipyard restructuring that is underway in some countries (Korea, Belgium, Portugal and Spain) may be continued as planned at the time when the Agreement was concluded. But no new restructuring programmes will be permitted.

10. A special feature of the Agreement is the treatment of the "Jones Act" of the United States. As an exception from the prohibition of official regulations and practices which favour the domestic shipbuilding industry, the United States retains the domestic build provision of some of its laws. However, this exception is subject to transparency and possible sanctions for abuse.

11. To ensure effectiveness of the Agreement, a binding dispute settlement and enforcement mechanism has been devised to deal with violations of the discipline on Government support. In such a case, and if violation is confirmed by the binding judgement of an independent international Panel, the illegal support measure will have to be eliminated and the illegal benefit will have to be paid back, with interest, by the shipbuilder who received it ('remedy'). Should the government not terminate the support, or the shipbuilder does not pay back the illegal benefit, 'sanctions' can be authorised. They can take two forms: the suspension by the party (or parties) adversely affected by the illegal benefit, of GATT concessions related to products associated with shipbuilding, and/or the denial to the illegally subsidised shipbuilder of the right to complain about dumping (injurious pricing) by other shipbuilders.

Injurious Pricing

12. The Injurious Pricing Code of the Agreement makes anti-dumping applicable to shipbuilding for the first time. The Code condemns injurious pricing - export sales of ships below normal value - if it causes or threatens injury to an established shipbuilding industry or retards the establishment of a domestic industry of another Party. It is based on the Anti Dumping Code of GATT 1994 and adjusts it to the particularities of shipbuilding. These are mainly the fact that ships are not normally imported for sale - and thus escape the GATT anti-dumping mechanism which is enforced through anti-dumping duties on imported goods - and the non-series production of ships.

13. If the shipbuilding industry in one Party to the Agreement claims to have been injured by the sale to a buyer within that country of a ship from another Party, at a price below that which it should normally command, the investigating authorities of the first may determine whether injurious pricing has indeed occurred. They will apply a multi-step approach: first, they will determine whether their industry had had a sufficient prospect of making the sale and whether it had met other criteria to be eligible to complain ('initiation'); second, they will determine the existence of injurious pricing (determination of injurious pricing') and the impact of the sale below normal value on the domestic industry (determination of injury).

14. As a rule, the provisions of the Injurious Pricing Code of the Agreement regarding the determination of injurious pricing and of injury follow closely the Anti Dumping Code of GATT 1994. For example, in determining injurious pricing, the investigating authorities will compare the export price of the vessel in question with (1) the domestic price of the like vessel, or (2) the export price of a like vessel to a third country, or (3) the cost of production plus normal profit in the exporting country. In the examination of the impact on the domestic industry, i.e. the determination of injury, the investigating authorities will evaluate all relevant economic factors having a bearing on the state of the industry; this shall include actual and potential decline in sales, profits, output, market share, productivity, return on investments, or utilisation of capacity; factors affecting domestic prices; the magnitude of the margin of injurious pricing; actual and potential negative effects on cash flow, inventories, employment, wages, growth, ability to raise capital or investments.

15. If the investigating authorities confirm injurious pricing and impose a levy upon the vessel in question, this 'injurious pricing charge' will have to be paid by the exporting shipbuilder - in contrast to the provisions in the GATT Anti Dumping Code, where the charge is to be paid by the importer in the form of extra import duties. The shipbuilder has to pay the charge within 180 days or later if payment within that period would render it insolvent. But the shipbuilder has the option to void the sale in question or to comply with an alternative remedy.

16. As in the case of illegally received Government support, 'sanctions' are foreseen if the shipbuilder does not pay the injurious pricing charge (or void the sale, or comply with an alternative remedy). These are severe: the country that has investigated the injurious pricing case may, on its own initiative, deny onloading and offloading privileges for a maximum period of four years after delivery to certain vessels built by that shipbuilder (i.e. vessels contracted for during a period of four years after public notice). Because of the requirement of prior public notice this will discipline the shipbuilder via the threat of losing orders, but it will not injure innocent shipbuyers. A Panel can extend or limit this countermeasure.

III. Outlook

17. When the Agreement enters into force (scheduled for 15 July 1996), its functioning will be subject to close supervision through a 'Parties Group'. There will be regular consultations and permanent transparency on matters such as ship prices, provision of permitted assistance, and others. The procedures foreseen for dealing with violations, whether in the area of government support or of injurious pricing, are such that a balance between all parties is assured and that there always is recourse possible to the Panel or the Parties Group in case of differences of views. Three years after the Agreement has entered into force, a major review is foreseen to examine the experience to date.

18. There is the expectation that the Agreement will have a sustained positive impact on the world shipbuilding market by repressing government support which has been a plague for years, and by punishing dumping practices that are believed to have been damaging shipbuilders. Non-availability of government support and the prosecution of injurious pricing should bring to light the economic advantages of the various countries and the true competitivity of individual shipbuilders.

19. Shipowners, on their part, will be confronted with a situation where ships are no longer available at subsidised or dumped prices. They may consequently change their expectation as to the profits they can make with a vessel, especially from speculative buying and selling of ships. Changed ordering behaviour for ships may, in turn, therefore contribute to stabilising the shipbuilding market and thus contribute to establishing normal competitive conditions in the shipbuilding industry.




Evergreen Line Vincenzo Miele

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