Hurtigruten fights ports over fees

Norwegian ferry and cruise line battles alleged overcharging
The Norwegian ferry and cruise company Hurtigruten is in an ongoing battle with many of the ports it calls at, in protest against what it says are overly high port fees.
The line has launched a series of law suits against the ports, which according to both the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Norwegian Coastal Administration have misinterpreted official fee regulations.
“We started the process in 2012,” said Stein Lillebo, project manager for Hurtigruten. “After the new port act of 2009 came into effect in 2012, Geiranger [Stranda Port Authority] increased their annual port fees fivefold from approximately NOK 400,000 (€43,000) to more than NOK 2,000,000. That case ended in the Supreme Court, where we won.”
He continued: “The port act was passed to lower port costs and make the ports more efficient. Instead our port costs went up more than 40% exceeding NOK 100 million in 2015.”
He explained that ports’ revenues are split in two, according to the new regulations.
“They are entitled to collect a limited fee for using the municipality’s sea area, the so-called approach fee, which is not to exceed the actual costs of certain tasks, mostly safety related. After we won, that fee was reduced by 90% in Geiranger.
“The other source of income is for specific services, like use of the pier, bunkering water, shore power and terminal facilities. These are to be market based and subject to negotiation for frequent users, but the ports have not been willing to negotiate. On the contrary, they all practice common pricing that is consistently unfavourable for Hurtigruten.”
Lillebo said: “Our argument is that the ports are acting in an anti-competitive fashion against Hurtigruten, with the aim of keeping prices high.”
Hurtigruten hired KPMG to review the fees, finding that out of 34 ports, 29 were interpreting the new regulations incorrectly and many were overcharging. If the company succeeds in recovering excess fees, it could amount to more than NOK 100 million.
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