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Maritime safety: Erika II

The object of this Communication is to improve the safety of the seaborne oil trade

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 6 December 2000 on a second set of Community measures on maritime safety following the sinking of the oil tanker Erika [COM (2000) 802 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The sinking of the oil tanker Erika off the French coast in December 1999 spurred new developments in the establishment of Europe's maritime safety policy. Three months after the accident, on 21 March 2000, the Commission adopted a " Communication on the safety of the seaborne oil trade " together with a number of proposals for specific measures to prevent such accidents happening again.

The Biarritz European Council called for the speedy adoption of the "first Erika package" and urged the Commission to propose as soon as possible a second set of measures to supplement the three legislative proposals presented on 21 March 2000. The second set of measures, which aim to bring about a lasting improvement in the protection of European waters against the risk of accidents at sea and marine pollution, was presented on 6 December 2000. It contains a proposal for a Directive and two proposals for Regulations.

1) Introduction of a Community monitoring, control and information system for maritime traffic

The safety of shipping in European waters is of crucial importance since 90 % of the European Union's trade with third countries is seaborne. The risk of accidents due to the concentration of traffic in the main European seaways is particularly high in areas where the traffic converges, such as the Strait of Dover or the Strait of Gibraltar. Furthermore, the environmental consequences of an accident at sea, even outside areas of high traffic density, can be disastrous for the economy and the environment of the Member States concerned. The aim therefore is for the European Union to acquire the means to monitor and control more effectively the traffic off its coasts and to take more effective action in the event of critical situations arising at sea.

To this end, the Directive provides for:

  • improving the identification of ships in areas of high traffic density by requiring them to carry systems so that they can be automatically identified and monitored by the coastal authorities;
  • making systematic use of electronic data interchange to simplify and harmonise the transmission and use of data on dangerous or polluting goods carried by ships;
  • requiring ships calling at Community ports to carry black boxes (voyage data recorders) in order to facilitate the investigation of accidents;
  • enhancing the powers of intervention of Member States, as coastal States, where there is an accident risk or threat of pollution off their costs;
  • prohibiting ships from leaving ports in weather conditions where there is a serious threat to safety or the environment.

2) Setting up of a Compensation Fund for Oil Pollution in European Waters

The Commission's proposal for a Regulation complements the existing international two-tier regime on liability and compensation for oil pollution damage by tankers by creating a European supplementary fund ("third tier"), the COPE Fund, to compensate victims of oil spills in European waters.

The COPE Fund will only compensate victims whose claims have been considered justified, but who have been unable to obtain full compensation under the international regime due to insufficient limits of compensation (EUR 200 million). The maximum limit is therefore set at EUR 1 000 million. The COPE Fund will be financed by European businesses which receive more than 150 000 tonnes of crude oil and/or heavy fuel per year in proportion to the amounts received.

Furthermore, the proposed Regulation provides for the application of financial penalties for grossly negligent behaviour on the part of any person involved in the transport of oil by sea.

3) Setting up of a European Maritime Safety Agency

The aim of setting up a European Maritime Safety Agency, as provided for in the Directive, is to provide support for the Commission and the Member States in the application and monitoring of Community legislation in this field and in evaluating its effectiveness.

The Maritime Safety Agency is broadly modelled on the Air Safety Agency. Its tasks will include providing technical assistance (amendment of Community legislation), assistance to candidate countries, organising training activities, gathering data and exploiting databases on maritime safety, monitoring navigation, evaluating and auditing classification societies, on-the-spot inspections and participation in enquiries following accidents at sea.

Last updated: 25.01.2007
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