Judgment delivered on 27 May 2016
Peter Madsen Rederi A/S
The Danish Ministry of Taxation
Transportation of passengers to and from destinations at sea using a dredging vessel amounted to sea transport within the meaning of section 10 of the Danish Seafarer Taxation Act
In May and June 2009, the shipping company Peter Madsen Rederi A/S performed work for the consulting engineering firm GEO in connection with seabed surveys undertaken by GEO with a view to the possible establishment of an offshore wind farm off the island of Anholt. GEO's staff performed the surveys using its own equipment. The work performed by the shipping company for GEO consisted of transporting GEO's staff and equipment to certain locations at sea and positioning GEO's equipment on the seabed using the ship's crane which was operated by the crew. The shipping company used the vessel Merete Chris for this work. This is a specially designed vessel with a gross tonnage of more than 20 tons, which can be used for dredging and other activities.
The issue was whether the work performed could, fully or partly, be considered "sea transport activities" within the meaning of section 10 of the Seafarer Taxation Act with the effect that it would entitle the company to reimbursement under this provision.
The Supreme Court found that the concept of sea transport in section 10 of the Seafarer Taxation Act must be interpreted in accordance with the general concept of sea transport in EU law, covering sea transport of goods or passengers. The work, which consisted of sailing between the port and the individual destinations at sea where the surveys were to be performed and sailing between the individual destinations, was to be regarded as transport of passengers and freight and, thus, amounted to sea transport activities within the meaning of section 10 of the Seafarer Taxation Act. However, the activities performed at the destinations where the surveys were performed could not be regarded as an integrated part of the sea transport, for which reason these activities did not entitle the company to reimbursement.
The High Court had reached a different conclusion.