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Representatives of the maritime transport industry and labor unions expressed their opinion on proposed deregulation of the port transport business in a public discussion held July 10 by the government’s Administrative Reform Committee.

Committee members are re-examining current regulations related to harbor transport business, such as the licensing system for business practitioners and the approval of fares by the government.

Toshio Sakata of the Japanese Shipowners’ Association noted that Japan’s port business operates under laws concerning harbor practices and under “unique” harbor regulations. He said the situation should be quickly rectified to meet international standards by reconsidering the stevedore licensing system and the current (stevedore) fee system.

Brian Lutt of the Foreign Shipowners’ Association recommended that a new harbor transport law be created to eliminate some current port practices. He said Japanese ports are no longer competitive in the world market.

Labor union representatives voiced opposition to decontrol measures, saying that they would invite “unstable situations” at Japanese ports such as illegal stevedore brokering.

“Reform of regulations is needed,” said Hiroyuki Nakao, “not deregulations. The issue is how to secure stable harbor transport business.”

Abolishing the licensing system will not lead to increasing the competitiveness of Japanese ports, Nakao said, adding that deregulation could be circumvented by raising port costs in other ways.

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