Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:

The Portuguese measures that we approved today will help the EU shipping industry to remain competitive on the global market, while protecting know-how and jobs in the maritime transport sector.

Under the newly introduced Portuguese tonnage tax scheme, maritime transport companies will pay taxes on the basis of the net tonnage (i.e. the size of the shipping fleet) operated in maritime transport activities rather than on the basis of their taxable profits. In particular, tonnage taxation will be applied to a shipping company’s:

  • core revenues from maritime transport activities, such as cargo and passenger transport;
  • certain ancillary revenues that are closely connected to shipping activities (which are capped at a maximum of 50% of a ship’s operating revenues)
  • revenues from towage and dredging subject to certain conditions.

For certain more environmentally-friendly ships, companies can achieve an additional reduction of 10% to 20% of the tax base under the tonnage tax scheme.

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The tonnage tax scheme requires that if a shipping company wants to benefit from the scheme, a significant part of its fleet must fly the flag of a European Economic Area (EEA) state. This is expected to encourage shipping companies to register their ships in the EEA and prevent any discrimination between shipping companies and registries of different EEA states, thus preserving the internal market rules on freedom of establishment.

What is more, the newly introduced Portuguese seafarer scheme exempts seafarers employed on vessels that are eligible under the tonnage tax scheme from paying personal income tax. It also allows them to pay reduced rates of contribution for social insurance.

Assessing the measures under EU State aid rules, in particular its Guidelines on State aid to maritime transport, the Commission concluded the Portuguese scheme is in line with EU State aid rules, as "it will provide incentives to maintain the maritime industry and jobs within the EU, whilst preserving competition within the EU Single Market."

Both the tonnage tax and seafarer schemes will remain in force for ten years.