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Brussels, 23 November 2005

Stringent measures to guarantee the safety of maritime transport

The European Union acted immediately following the Erika and Prestige accidents to set up a “defensive” mechanism to protect Europe against the risks of accidents and pollution. With the third maritime safety package, the Commission is today proposing a more proactive policy aimed at restoring conditions for healthy and sustainable competition for those operators who comply with international rules.

The quality of maritime services offered by operators is the key to competitiveness in the sector, and in that context, the ability to provide a safe and environmentally-friendly service is of utmost importance”, said European Commission Vice-President , Jacques Barrot. “Introducing stricter requirements for unscrupulous operators who distort competition, and maintaining high-performing maritime administrations and classification societies will also ensure the high quality of maritime transport”.

The third maritime safety package contains 7 proposals structured around two major themes:

1. Improved accident and pollution prevention

Since the enlargement of the European Union to 25 Member States has made it a major maritime power, the first of the Commission’s proposals is to improve the conditions for granting the Member States’ flags. The Commission’s objective is to require Member States to thoroughly check that ships flying their flags comply with international standards, and therefore to have a maritime administration which strictly applies the quality criteria. Stepping up responsibility in this way is the precursor to the future development of a European flag.

Two other proposals aim to strengthen existing legislation on classification societies and port State control. These instruments have also been recast in order to make one consolidated text which is clearer and easier to read.

  • The quality of the work carried out by classification societies will be improved by establishing an independent quality-control system and by introducing more gradual and proportionate financial penalties.
  • In terms of port State control, the current system has been made stricter with regard to substandard ships, in particular by strengthening the arrangements for banning them. Lastly, the proposal introduces the principle of a far-reaching reform aimed at replacing the current system (based on each Member State inspecting 25% of ships entering its ports) with a Community target of inspecting 100% of ships, bearing in mind the need to reduce the burden of carrying out inspections on high-quality ships.

Lastly, the Commission proposes to amend the Directive on traffic monitoring. The proposed objectives include improving the legal framework on places of refuge for ships in distress. The obligation to designate an independent authority and the prior identification of all potential places of refuge will speed up and improve the efficiency of decision-making in the event of maritime accidents. In addition, the Commission is proposing to equip all fishing vessels with automatic identification systems (AIS) in order to reduce the risk of collisions.

2. Dealing with the aftermath of accidents

The quality of maritime safety standards depends on the ability to analyse the causes of accidents and learn from them. The purpose of the new proposal for a Directive is to establish a harmonised European framework for carrying out investigations following accidents and to make the investigating bodies more independent.

Lastly, the last two proposals in the package are aimed at improving the quality of the overall framework of liability and damage repair in the event of an accident. This involves incorporating the provisions of the Athens Convention (2002) into European law in order to extend the protection – introduced by this Convention – to cover all passengers on ships in the Union, including intra-European maritime and inland waterway traffic. The aim is also to make shipowners act more responsibly, and to oblige them to take out an insurance policy or other financial security for third-party damage, which will also cover the costs of repatriating seafarers in case of abandonment.

More detailed information on the contents of the third maritime safety package are included in the annex. The texts of the third package are available on the website of the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport at the following address:

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