The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the prolongation of an Irish scheme to refund employers’ social security contributions in respect of seafarers on certain vessels. The aim of the scheme is to increase the attractiveness for Irish shipping companies to employ seafarers, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of Irish shipping sector.
The measure was originally approved by the Commission in September 1999, prolonged in 2005, 2011 and 2018, and is set to expire on 31 December 2022. Ireland notified the prolongation of the scheme until 31 December 2028 with a budget increase of €300,000, bringing the overall budget to €4.2 million. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of reimbursement of social security contributions to employers of seafarers working on vessels registered in the shipping register of a Member State of the European Economic Area that are self-propelled and have more than 100 tons of gross tonnage.
The Commission assessed the scheme under the EU State aid rules, and in particular under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Guidelines on State aid to maritime transport.
The Commission found that the scheme continues to be necessary and appropriate to promote the attractiveness of the employment of seafarers in Ireland and enhancing the competitiveness of Irish ship operators.
Furthermore, the Commission concluded that the measure continues to be proportionate, as it is limited to the minimum necessary, and to have a limited impact on competition and trade between Member States. On this basis, the Commission found that the prolongation of the scheme is in line EU State aid rules.
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