Azores Parliament approves creation of three-euro maritime ecotax

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The Legislative Assembly of the Azores today approved a PAN proposal to create a maritime ecotax to be levied on cruise tourism, in the amount of three euros per person.

The draft regional legislative decree on the creation of the maritime ecotax, presented by the parliamentary representation of PAN, was approved on the fourth and final day of the plenary session of the Regional Legislative Assembly, which takes place in Horta, on the island of Faial, with the votes in favor of PS (24 deputies), PSD (20), CDS-PP (three), BE (two), PPM (two), PAN (one) and the independent deputy, a vote against the deputy of IL and the abstention of the parliamentarian of Chega.

According to the document, the future maritime ecotax has a unit value of three euros per passenger “who disembarks on a cruise ship or pleasure craft calling at the region’s terminals” and is due by passengers without a tax residence in the Azores, aged 10 or over.

In the presentation of the document, which began on Thursday afternoon, the preponent deputy, Pedro Neves (PAN), said that tourism “is a strategic sector for the region and contributes to several sectors of the economy”, but “is very dependent on human conduct”.

Cruise ships “emit different air pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, as well as fine particles that can cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases” and contribute to the acidification of rainfall, he said.

In this context, the MEP considers that “the tourist footprint has to come at a price”.

He also pointed out that the opinions of environmentalists are positive to the implementation of the tourist tax on cruise tourism and proposes that the revenues obtained be applied in favor of “mitigation of impacts on the environment”.

Deputy Rui Martins (CDS-PP) stressed that the tax “can be a benefit to circumvent impossibilities” in the medium term to have an electrification of ports and said that the party saw the proposal “with good eyes”.

Alexandra Manes, from BE, considered that examples from other countries should be taken into account.

In his opinion, the Regional Government (PSD/CDS-PP/PPM) and the parties that support it “have the possibility to implement this segment of tourism in a more sustainable way”.

Gustavo Alves (PPM) pointed out that “there is more and more technological development” in ships, the region has been sought after by expedition cruises that are smaller and are usually “the most technologically advanced” and there are conditions to receive these ships.

Parliamentarian José Pacheco (Chega) considered that it is necessary to “prevent”, hence the abstention: “What today we do not consider excessive tomorrow may be. So we have to prevent it”.

Social Democrat deputy Jaime Vieira said that the PAN proposal is “a good proposal”, as long as “it is not implemented immediately”, having proposed to refer its application to January 1, 2025, so that “whoever comes to the Azores can know what they are counting on”.

José Luís Parreira (IL) pointed out that the PAN intends to charge a transversal fee to all tourists who disembark and IL “wants tourists to pay for the provision of services and the respective revenue will revert to environmental preservation”.

“The implementation of a tax makes those who visit us contribute to the region’s budget” and so that, in this way, environmental preservation can be financed, said, in turn, the socialist Rui Anjos.

Independent Carlos Furtado voted in favor of the maritime ecotax, as he also approved the regional tourist tax (worth one euro) last year.

The regional secretary for Tourism, Mobility and Infrastructure, Berta Cabral, acknowledged that cruise tourism is “an important source of revenue” for the region and revenues “are key to combating seasonality”.

On the other hand, he said that the tourism industry will have to adapt to new technologies, recalling that many ships are being adapted to run on less polluting energy.

“The application of a tax will reduce the competitiveness of our ports, especially Madeira, which is next door and does not have this type of tax,” he said, hoping that “there will be care for the cruise industry to adapt to this reality”.

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