Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport
Costa Concordia: Statement on EU passenger ship safety review
Brussels, 24 January 2012
Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,
Thank you for your invitation to this exchange of views on maritime safety, following the Costa Concordia accident.
Of course, our first thoughts are with the victims and I have written to the Italian Transport Minister Corrado Passera to express our condolences about the tragic accident and loss of life.
I also offered the support of the Commission and EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) to follow and accompany as necessary the rescue, salvage and investigation operations.
While the search and rescue operation continues, we are closely following the preparations to remove the more than 2300 tons of fuel oil on board of the ship and reduce the risk of an oil spill. EMSA has facilitated the use of one of its specialised oil spill response ships, contracted as a stand-by by the specialised salvage company in charge of the fuel removal. The ship has in the meantime arrived on site.
What about us? What about the European Union? What about the European Commission? What about the European Parliament?
First, no panic! We are vigilant, attentive to all weaknesses in our regulations. We are also balanced and reasonable. But safety always comes first.
Second, we have two parallel processes going on. One is the Costa Concordia accident investigation. We are in regular close contact with the Italian authorities and I would like to thank them for the excellent cooperation. When the investigation is completed, we will assess the conclusions and decide what lessons from this concrete case should be learned. The second process is our regular work in updating safety rules in maritime transport including passenger ships.
Passenger ship safety and pollution prevention and control are regulated by a considerably body of international and European legislation. As appropriate for a global activity such as shipping, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) plays a lead role for safety standards. The EU constantly contributes to the regulatory process and transposes, enforces and tops up rules as necessary and possible.
We are not waiting for an accident but independently initiated major policy reviews and updating of safety regulation as precautionary measure; we are doing our job.
Since 2010 the Commission is engaged in a comprehensive review of passenger ship safety legislation: evaluation of the existing legal framework, large scale technical studies, as well as a safety gap analysis.
Our aim is to increase the effectiveness of the safety rules for passenger vessels in domestic voyages and the operational standards of all passenger ships coming to or leaving EU ports. We consider rules improving the stability of passenger ships after damage or collision. We look at registration of passengers and evacuation procedures. In parallel, the Commission will bring forward appropriate proposals to IMO to improve passenger ships standards at international level.
They will cover any lessons we learn from the present accident and I asked, wherever possible, to accelerate work.
This spring, we will start public stakeholder consultations to test findings and possible options. Legislative proposals and accompanying measures are then planned to follow as from after the summer.
Honourable Members, the tragic accident of the Costa Concordia sadly illustrates that safety is the first concern in transport. Shipping has an impressive safety track record over the past years, despite intense traffic and fast technological and operational development. But it is this fast development that also requires constant attention from safety experts and regulators.
I sincerely hope we will have your support, as well as that of the Member States, when we will table these forthcoming initiatives, to make shipping even safer.