European Commission - Press release
Health and safety: Commission requests Spain to comply fully with EU rules on fishing vessels
Brussels, 31 May 2012 – The European Commission has requested Spain to amend its legislation on health and safety requirements on fishing vessels in order to comply with the requirements of EU legislation on the matter (Directive 93/103/EC). In particular, the Commission has requested Spain to clarify the definition of the term "owner" of a fishing vessel so as to clearly determine who is responsible for complying with EU health and safety requirements on fishing vessels, as required by the Directive.
The request takes the form of an 'additional reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Spain now has two months to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Spain to the EU's Court of Justice.
Without a clear definition of who is responsible in practice for applying the health and safety rules on fishing vessels, there is a risk that the rules will not be applied.
The risk of an accident causing an injury or death is 2.4 times greater in the sea fisheries sector than the average of all EU industries.
Directive 93/103/ECprovides that the owner of the fishing vessel is the registered owner of a vessel, unless that vessel has been chartered by demise (a lease agreement to hire a ship in which the charterer assumes the legal responsibilities of the owner, and obtains a complete control and management of the ship) or is managed by a natural or legal person other than the registered owner under the terms of a management agreement.
The Commission considers that the criteria for the determining owners of a fishing vessel in Spanish national law do not correspond to the criteria in the Directive as they permit persons who charter vessels under various chartering agreements to qualify as owners. These include, for instance, time charterers who are not in a position to fulfil the duties of the owner regarding health and safety on board fishing vessels due to the specific character of time charter arrangements.
In addition, Spanish national law states that those "engaged in exploiting the vessels" qualify as owners. Thus, in cases where the vessel is chartered, the Spanish law permits both the registered owner (who is engaged indirectly in the exploitation of a vessel according to the national authorities) and the charterer to qualify as owner. Therefore, the national law does not allow a clear definition of who will bear the responsibilities imposed on owners regarding health and safety of workers on board fishing vessels.
The Commission's request takes the form of an 'additional reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures because it addresses issues raised in replies by the Spanish authorities to a reasoned opinion of 22 March 2010 regarding the definition of the "owner" of a fishing vessel.
Council Directive 93/103/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for work on board fishing vessels:
For more information on infringement procedures:
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Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)
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