‘Public funding for Gateway Basel Nord creates unfair competition’
Swissterminal, a provider of container terminal services in the Swiss area of Basel, has lodged a formal complaint against the federal funding for the planned container terminal project Gateway Basel Nord. The funding creates unfair competition, the company states.
Gateway Basel Nord is a planned trimodal transshipment terminal at the intersection of rail, Rhine and road. The project is implemented by Gateway Basel Nord AG (GBN), a joint planning company consisting of Contargo, SBB Cargo and Hupac, in cooperation with the Port of Switzerland. In July, the Swiss government committed to investing 71 million Euros (83 million Swiss francs) in the project.
Swissterminal lodged a complaint with the Swiss Federal Administrative Court against the federal funding, because it causes “a severe threat to competition in terms of container terminal handling services”. The company claims a breach of economic freedom as well as competition law and international regulations for free trade. Swissterminal also argues that it is directly affected by the future project, but that it has not been granted any participatory rights in the current planning procedure whatsoever.
The complaint, filed on 14 September 2018, is directed against both Gateway Basel Nord AG (GBN AG) and the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT), which took the decision to fund the project. The complaint calls for a repeal of the decree issued on 4 July 2018 as it violates applicable law in many ways according to Swissterminal.
Gateway Basel Nord
Switzerland is expected to witness a growing demand in combined transport services. In order to meet this demand, GBN aims to expand throughput capacity with improved productivity across all transport chains in Basel North. The new terminal will have a high degree of automation and three gantry cranes for trains up to 750 metre. The terminal layout increases efficiency, speeds up turnaround times, and results in savings that can reduce the cost of import-export shipments.
The terminal should also enable a shift to rail. In addition to road access to the A2, the terminal will have a rail connection, allowing direct train access from the north and south, including access to the Rhine-Alpine corridor with the Gotthard Base Tunnel as the centerpiece. The aim is to realise a gradual shift of container traffic to rail, moving to a 45 per cent market share in the first stage, and later to 50 percent.
According to Swissterminal, FOT has taken these objectives for granted. “It simply followed the reasoning of the future gateway operators without any verification”, the company said. Moreover, it questions the funding of the remaining part, which is to be provided by GBN AG itself. “SBB Cargo is highly indebted and does not have the appropriate means for funding itself. It therefore needs to be examined whether the funds required originate from funds that SBB AG received for its subsidised business unit.”
SBB Cargo said in an interview with Bazonline that the partnership is solid as a rock and would not be affected by the unstable financial state of the company, adding that the FOT would not have provided the public funding if the project was at risk.