Sunnmøre district court handed down a judgment on 3 January 2013 in the first court case involving the entitlement to charge port fees under the new Norwegian Harbours Act (2009).
The court held that Stranda municipality (Geiranger port) were not entitled to charge Hurtigruten any commercial fees (“passasjer-vederlag”) or port fees (“anløpsavgift”) for the years 2012 and 2013. Stranda were also obliged to repay various fees that had been wrongfully invoiced to Hurtigruten, and were also ordered to cover Hurtigruten’s full costs.
This is a landmark decision clarifying how the new Norwegian port fee regime should be applied. The judgment makes it clear that the ports cannot charge port fees (“anløpsavgift”) at all, unless they can demonstrate that they have incurred costs that fall within the scope of such “fees” as defined under Section 25 of the Act. Geiranger were unable to show that they had incurred any costs that qualified for such treatment. Based on this judgment, Nordisk’s assessment is that a large number of Norwegian ports are unlikely to have a legal basis to claim such fees.
The judgment will also be helpful for owners who consider that they are being charged commercial fees (“vederlag”) for services that the ports in fact do not provide, or fees that are unreasonably high. The court held that the commercial fees (“passasjervederlag”) Hurtigruten were asked to pay, were in part “payment for nothing” and in part payment for services that are legally available to the public free of charge.
Hurtigruten was represented by Mats E. Sæther of Nordisk Legal Services.
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