Brussels, 28 June 2002
After the adoption of the new European legislation on maritime safety, Loyola de Palacio calls for rapid implementation
The Council has recently finally adopted two major legislative proposals under the ERIKA 2 package: the Directive on the monitoring of maritime traffic and the Regulation setting up a Maritime Safety Agency. These two proposals complement the legislative arsenal already put in place at European level to avoid disasters like the ERIKA in the future. They represent a genuine revolution in maritime transport: it will now be possible to prevent a vessel from leaving a port in extremely adverse weather conditions. Moreover, the procedures concerning the transmission and use of data on dangerous cargoes have been improved and a genuine information and monitoring system for vessels approaching European coasts has been put in place. The European Maritime Safety Agency will improve the coordination of measures taken by Member States, monitor the application of European legislation and help to improve such legislation. Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President responsible for transport and energy, has expressed her satisfaction: "In less than three years, Europe has greatly improved legislation on maritime safety. We now have the means to protect our coastlines more effectively against substandard ships: Europe has dealt with the situation". "The European States must now complete this effort by applying European law as soon as possible" she added.
The two legislative proposals formally adopted by the Council and the European Parliament are as follows:
The establishment of a European Maritime Safety Agency. In the space of a few years, numerous safety standards have been drawn up and Member States have to apply them effectively as well as harmonising their inspection and control procedures. The European Maritime Safety Agency will support action taken by the Commission, the Member States and the candidate countries. It will evaluate the effectiveness of maritime safety measures adopted. The Agency will be responsible for collecting information, managing databases on maritime safety, evaluating and auditing maritime classification societies and organising inspections in the Member States to verify Port State Control conditions. Finally, it will be able to assist national inspectors in their control duties and facilitate an exchange of experience of benefit to all. The Agency should initially employ around fifty people. It will be operational within twelve months of the entry into force of the Regulation (twenty days after its publication in the OJ). The seat of the Agency has still to be decided.
Improvement of maritime traffic safety and prevention of pollution from ships: the Directive provides for the setting up of a notification system also covering vessels not calling at Community ports. It strengthens the powers of Member States to take action, as coastal states, in the event of a risk of an accident or threat of pollution off their coasts even outside their territorial waters. It requires vessels in Community waters to carry on board automatic identification systems (or transponders) and "black boxes" similar to those used in aircraft to facilitate accident investigations. This Directive seeks to improve the procedures concerning the transmission and utilisation of data concerning dangerous cargoes and to speed up the development of joint databases. On the basis that most sinkings occur when the weather conditions are extremely adverse, the Directive also introduces the possibility of preventing vessels from leaving ports in such conditions. Finally, it requires each Member State to designate ports of refuge where vessels in distress can seek shelter. Member States will have to have transposed the Directive into national law within eighteen months of its entry into force (date of its publication in the OJ).