EP Transport Committee: stricter maritime safety rules
Brussels, Belgium – Maritime accident numbers may be falling, but the threats stemming from failure to comply with safety standards remain, said the EP Transport Committee on Tuesday. Even though, in the wake of the Erika and Prestige oil-spill accidents, the EU did introduce substantive legislation to improve maritime safety, further measures are needed to prevent accidents and pollution, and to deal with accident aftermaths, the committee believes.
Boosting the effectiveness of existing safety measures is the key aim of the European Commission’s "third maritime safety package", upon which the committee approved its seven reports – all almost unanimously – on 27 February. The 27-strong EU is a major maritime power, and its maritime safety rules need to be made robust enough to prevent maritime accidents such as the recent ones off the UK coast and in the Messina straits, it said. These seven reports are scheduled to be put to a plenary vote in April 2007.
Flag state obligations – Rapporteur Marta Vincenzi (PES, IT)
This report is one of the key elements in the package and is strongly opposed by the Council. The European Commission has already proposed that the various International Maritime Organisation conventions on flag state obligations should be turned into binding legislation. EU Member States must be required to monitor compliance with international standards by ships that fly their flags, says the report, adding that this is the key "missing link" in the existing Community legislation. The requisite standards are laid down in the SOLAS and the MARPOL conventions.
A committee amendment would make it a precondition for the first registration of a ship in a Member State that this Member State should ascertain that the ship complies with the relevant international rules. The Committee also strongly favoured making the International Maritime Organisation’s flag state obligations more acceptable to EU Member States. For example, surveyors and investigators should be well trained, and have appropriate inspection means and methods.
- Port State Control – Rapporteur Dominique Vlasto (EPP-ED, FR)
The committee welcomed this proposal to improve the quality and effectiveness of checks on ships in European ports. Its amendments sought to strengthen the inspection regime, the criteria for selecting ships for inspection, and the parameters needed to calculate a ship’s risk profile. It called on the Commission, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency, to develop a data base showing the risk profiles of ships and indicating all ships due for inspection.
An expanded inspection regime should apply to vessels that have a high risk profile and to passenger ships and oil and chemical tankers more than 12 years old. Under certain conditions, ships that have been detained in port more than twice in the preceding 36 months could be banned from EU ports. The committee also said that the role of pilots in detecting possible shortcomings on board ships should be extended, and if port authorities learn that a ship has anomalies or apparent defects, then they should immediately inform the competent authority of the port state concerned.
- Ships in distress and traffic monitoring – Rapporteur Dirk Sterckx (ALDE, BE)
Establishing a clear and precise legal framework for places of refuge for ships in distress is the key aim of this proposal to amend the Directive on the Community traffic monitoring system. The committee said that there should be no "margin of discretion" for Member States in applying this decision on places of refuge, and that an independent authority should be set up to designate ports of refuge for vessels in distress. Members also proposed that all fishing vessels over 15 metres long should be equipped with the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
- Carrier liability – Rapporteur Paolo Costa (ALDE, IT)
This proposal aims to ensure that ship passengers enjoy the same protection as those in other types of transport, i.e. modernised carrier liability rules, a mandatory insurance system and a satisfactory compensation system. But the committee adopted an amendment that would exclude inland navigation from the scope of this regulation, on the grounds that the structure and risks of this sector are fundamentally different from those of the sea navigation sector.
- Ship inspections and survey organisations – Rapporteur Luis de Grandes Pascual (EPP-ED, ES)
This proposal aims to improve the quality of the work of the so-called classification societies: bodies authorised by the Member States to carry out, on their behalf, inspection, checking and certification tasks relating to ships flying their flag. The committee advocates creating an independent assessment committee to monitor the work of classification societies. This committee should be empowered to act independently of the recognised organisations and should have the necessary means to carry out its duties effectively and to the highest possible standards, said the committee.
- Civil liability – Rapporteur Gilles Savary (PES, FR)
This proposal aims to put in place "core" rules, common to all Member States, governing civil liability, insurance for ship-owners, and also the liability of any person responsible for the operation of a ship. It would incorporate the International Maritime Organisation Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) into EU law.
- Investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector – Rapporteur Jaromir Kohlicek (EUL/NGL, CZ)
Finally, the committee took the view that there should be clear Community guidelines for technical investigations following accidents at sea. As in the aviation sector, the aim is to learn lessons with the view to issuing safety recommendations for prevention purposes.
Procedure: Co-decision, first reading – Plenary vote: April 2007 (Strasbourg)
Committee on Transport and Tourism
In the chair: : Paolo COSTA (ALDE, IT)