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European Commission - Press release

Maritime transport: Commission refers Portugal to the Court for failing to respect its flag State obligations

Brussels, 27 April 2017

The European Commission decided today to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to respect its obligations as a flag State.

The European Commission decided today to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to respect its obligations as a flag State[*].

The Commission issued two separate referrals to the Court of Justice concerning flag state requirements on one hand, and monitoring and reporting activities of its recognised organisations on the other hand.


Flag State requirements

Portugal has failed to comply with its obligations to develop, implement and maintain a quality management system for the operational parts of the flag State-related activities of its administration, which is to be certified in accordance with the applicable international quality standards (Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/21/EC). As per this Directive, the certified quality management system should have been in place by June 2012. To date, Portugal has, however, failed to do so.


Monitoring and reporting activities

In addition, Portugal has failed to comply with its monitoring and reporting obligations under Directive 2009/15/EC. The Directive requires Member States to monitor the recognised organisations acting on their behalf to check the compliance of vessels with international maritime conventions. Each Member State must provide other Member States and the Commission every two years with a report on the results of such monitoring activities. Portugal has, however, failed to submit such reports for the six organisations it recognises.



Directives 2009/21/EC and 2009/15/EC aim to ensure that Member States effectively and consistently discharge their obligations as flag States, enhance safety and prevent pollution from ships flying their flag. Directive 2009/15/EC also sets out measures on Member States' relationship with organisations entrusted with the inspection, survey and certification of ships.

The proper implementation of both legislations is fundamental to ensure quality shipping in Europe as well as ensure compliance with the international conventions e.g. on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)This is all the more significant given the recent growth in Portugal's second ship register in Madeira.

The Commission had already requested Portugal to comply with these two Directives through two reasoned opinions sent respectively in September 2016 (flag state requirements) and July 2016 (monitoring and reporting).


For More Information

- On the key decisions in the April 2017 infringements package, see full MEMO/17/1045.

- On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12 (and info graph).

- On the EU infringements procedure.


[*]The flag State of a vessel is the State under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed.


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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