NETHERLANDS - The €200m pension fund of Dutch maritime service provider Smit Internationale is facing another benefits cut - in addition to the 13.2% discount it already must apply at the end of this year.

During a hearing of the parliamentary select committee for social affairs, Arno Moonen, chairman of the scheme's participants council, said: "As the number of participants is likely to decrease, and our contributions are already 27%, the present workers cannot pay for the necessary recovery."

According to Neeltje Snoei, secretary of the participants council, the pension fund is looking into the legality of the company's refusal to plug the scheme's financial gap.

She pointed out that, during the 1980s and '90s, the scheme contributed €11.5m to the re-structuring of the sponsoring company, which she said had fallen short of paying sufficient contributions.

"For unclear reasons, the company now doesn't want to honour its initial promise to pay any funding gap at the pension fund," Snoei said.

Moonen attributed the shortfall of the Smit scheme in part to its long-time conservative investment approach, arguing that the maximum equity allocation of 20% had caused the scheme to miss out on returns during the equity boom.

Snoei said the employer, which had chaired the pension fund until last September, had agreed to placing the scheme with an insurer, but demanded that workers and deferred participants be treated differently.

Pieter Omtzigt, the committee's chairman and MP for the Christian Democrat party CDA, said this case "really frightened" him, particularly considering that the pension fund's board had declined the committee's invitation to attend the hearing.

Dredging and building company Boskalis - Smit's new owner since the start of this year - recently announced that it had no legal obligation to pay for the shortfall at the Smit scheme.