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ome 90 % of the goods traffic to and from the European Union is transported by sea. The European Union has adopted a range of rules on maritime safety and security to ensure quality shipping that respects the environment and guarantees an optimal level of protection for European citizens.
In addition, the maritime sector contributes to the competitiveness of European business with effective solutions to the growing mobility of people and goods. Europe has adopted rules to protect the environment and promote economic activity. Operators benefit from a level playing field and equitable, competitive conditions compared with those who do not respect the rules of the game. Seafarers benefit in terms of their standard of working conditions and mutual recognition of quality training. The European Union has therefore defined a global strategy intended to make the Community’s fleet more competitive, by creating a level playing field within the Union and by means of multilateral agreements providing open access to maritime transport services. If it is essential to have rules, it is equally essential that they are applied. The Commission ensures that this is the case in the Member States through the European Maritime Safety Agency. This Agency has recently been established in Lisbon and is now fully operational, able to assist the Commission and Member States to apply European regulations on safety, the prevention of and fight against pollution and the training of seafarers.
Finally, recent developments within the International Maritime Organisation and the International Labour Organisation have confirmed the important role of the European Union at international level. With successive enlargements, including the one taking place on 1 January 2007, Europe now has a privileged position, thanks both to the length of its coastlines and the importance of its maritime sector. Maritime transport in Europe has the wind in its sails!
Jacques Barrot Vice-President responsible for transport
MARITIME TRANSPORT: A VITAL SECTOR
ver the centuries, Europe’s economic success has been built on its use of maritime transport to trade with the rest of the world. Today, almost 90 % of the European Union’s external trade and more than 40 % of its internal trade goes by sea.That equates to about 3.5 billion tonnes of freight loaded and unloaded in EU ports every year. The EU’s thriving maritime industries include shipbuilding, ports, fishing and a number of related activities and services employing about 3 million people in total. The EU is committed to supporting those sectors so it continues to thrive and provides jobs in an innovative, safe and environmentally sustainable manner.
on aid they may receive for additional ships sailing under third-country flags.This initiative has produced even more dramatic results.
Supporting Europe’s islands
Europe has scores of islands whose sparse populations rely on sea transport links and ferry services that are not always profitable. Without access to the mainland many of these communities would wither and die. While the EU does not allow transport subsidies that can distort competition, Community regulations do permit public subsidy for services to and from, and between, islands, as long as they are awarded transparently and there is no discrimination against other transport operators.
A level playing field for the EU fleet
Over the past few decades, the EU-flagged merchant fleet has faced strong competition from non-EU flagged ships. And this competition has not always been fair as a result of more favourable tax regimes and, above all, lower labour costs. Competitors have gained this advantage through social and safety conditions below European norms and standards, and even by not respecting international rules. In 1997, the Commission adopted guidelines for state aid, placing the emphasis on improving employment, skills and safety in the maritime sector.The guidelines also allowed EU staff working on European-registered ships to benefit from reduced tax and social security contributions. As a result of this Commission initiative, figures show that the European-flagged fleet has increased significantly since 1997.
Sustainable maritime employment and training for Europe’s seafarers
Well-trained, motivated seafarers are essential for the operation of the EU fleet. Without good quality personnel, ship operations simply cannot be run safely and efficiently. While demand is increasing, there has been an acute shortage (1) of European seafarers – mainly officers – in Europe. This is expected to rise considerably if no corrective measures are taken. In 2002, the EU fleet had a shortfall of around 30 000 trained officers – a deficit of about 30 %. The Commission’s 2001 communication on training and recruitment brought to light this growing decline of European seafarers, and recommended actions to reverse the trend. In particular, it encourages national maritime training systems to share best practice and includes measures to raise awareness about seafaring careers. More recently, in response to conclusions adopted by the Council in 2003 on ‘Improving the image of Community shipping and attracting young people to the seafaring professions’ (2), the Commission presented a working document on the main components of its action in the field of maritime employment (3).
In 2004, the Commission adopted further improved guidelines designed to speed up the re-flagging process. In particular, they address shipowners who operate less than 60 % of their tonnage under EU flags, in Member States where EU registration of shipping has decreased in the preceding three years. The aim is to encourage shipowners to maintain the tonnage they register under an EU flag, or risk losing out
(1) Joint Study of the Federation of Transport Workers’ Unions in the European Union (FST) and of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA): ‘Improving the employment opportunities for EU seafarers: An investigation to identify seafarers’ training and education priorities’ (1998); Study on the maritime professions in the European Union (financed by the Commission in 1996) and the Methar research project (harmonisation of European maritime education and training schemes, which was funded by the Commission under the fourth framework programme for research and technological development). (2) Conclusions adopted on 5 June 2003, during the Greek Presidency. (3) SEC(2005)1400/2, 11.11.2005.
MARITIME TRANSPORT POLICY
Forging relations in a global market
Countries outside the EU may be competitors in the global market, but good relations are essential if the world’s sea lanes and ports are to support international trade. The EU’s strategy is to maintain and improve relations in the context of liberalising, wherever possible, services for maritime transport, while securing non-discriminatory treatment for EU ships in third-country ports. To this end, the EU has recently forged agreements with countries like Russia, Ukraine and South Korea that allow for mutual access to the market for maritime transport services, and provide the right to establish maritime companies. The EU concluded a shipping agreement with China in December 2002 and is currently in similar negotiations with India. The European Commission also takes part in regular talks on international maritime policy, especially relating to issues such as market regulation and safety. It coordinates Europe’s point of view in negotiating forums such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) where it recently contributed to the adoption of the Convention on Maritime Labour Standards on 23 February 2006. The main ongoing research activity conducted by the Energy and Transport DG in this area is the four-year MarNIS project started in November 2004. The results will prepare ‘e-Maritime’, a step change in the use of information technology in the sector. MarNIS aims at developing systematic use of modern localisation and telecommunication techniques for all operators in the maritime sector. This would allow both better observance of all the wide-ranging legislation governing the sector, and easier communication between ship and shore to solve a vast array of issues related to the handling of ships, their cargo, passengers and crew. Proposals will be made to ease the tasks of both administrations and ships’ bridges, governing the use of existing, and soon mandatory, hardware and software. Ship–shore/ship–ship/shore–shore messaging/controls will soon become automated, hugely simplifying the existing paper-based administration, control and exchange systems. The project will enable all control administrations and shipowners’/operators’/captains’ activities to benefit. See http://www.marnis.org/
Maritime innovation, research and development
The Commission is committed to supporting maritime research. Indeed, a plethora of R & D activities relating to sea transport have been funded over the years through the EU’s framework programmes for research. The aim is to improve the safety and efficiency of maritime transport, as well as its environmental performance. Maritime research was given a significant boost in 2005 with the establishment of ‘Waterborne’, an EUbacked technology platform. Waterborne promises to bring together relevant stakeholders, improving the coherence of research in the sector.
EFFICIENT MULTIMODAL LOGISTICS IN EUROPE
uropean companies face growing costs as they move their goods to market. Europe’s roads are saturated with ever-growing numbers of trucks, congestion and pollution problems. Add to that high fuel prices and the increasing cost of road tolls, and it is little wonder that the Commission and other transport industry players want to develop multimodal solutions that can take some of the burden off Europe’s roads.
Developing short-sea shipping
Short-sea shipping grew by 32 % between 1995 and 2004, a similar growth rate to road freight transport. Short-sea shipping carries 39 % of all tonne-kilometres in the EU-25, comparing favourably to road’s share of 44 %. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to eliminate obstacles to short-sea shipping and integrate it more closely in multimodal door-to-door chains. In 2003, the Commission presented a programme for the promotion of short-sea shipping. It contains 14 actions that aim to make the mode more competitive and simplify administrative complexities. The Commission has worked closely with Member States and industry to carry out the actions. For example, they have: • streamlined administrative and customs procedures; • identified and tackled bottlenecks that have been blocking the development of short-sea shipping; • produced guidance for a network of 21 businessdriven short-sea promotion centres that work to raise the profile of the mode all over Europe. See http://www.shortsea.info/ In July 2006, the Commission carried out a mid-term review of the 2003 programme, which has led to retargeting certain actions towards more efficient promotion of short-sea shipping.
An efficient multimodal system – using long and short sea journeys, rail and inland waterways as well as road – should be very appealing to Europe’s business sector. Transfer of goods via different modes has the potential to be cost-effective and sustainable – boosting both Europe’s economy and environment. Transport operators and their clients want to be sure that multimodal solutions are efficient to run and reliable. The EU is committed to increasing confidence in and use of multimodal transport.That is why, as part of wider freight-transport logistics, it supports the development of: • improved quality standards which can be used both as a marketing tool and as a way to enhance fair competition in the transport sector; • better training to improve the skills and knowledge of those who have to organise the transport of goods; • improved statistics which can be used to inform transport policies, measure their impact and anticipate future needs; • methods to fully integrate short-sea shipping in the multimodal door-to-door chain.
MARITIME TRANSPORT POLICY
‘Motorways of the sea’
Making more use of the seas around Europe to transport people and goods could help to reduce road congestion. If this modal shift of traffic to the sea is to work, however, transport companies will have to offer their customers reliable, cost-effective and efficient services. The Commission is promoting ‘motorways of the sea’ as a way of meeting that need. These key sea routes between EU Member States offer regular, highquality services that, combined with other transport modes, provide shorter and quicker access routes to Europe’s outlying regions and that allow natural barriers such as the Alps and the Pyrenees to be bypassed. And because sea transport is less polluting than other modes, developing motorways of the sea will bring considerable environmental benefits. Through its trans-European networks (TEN-T) programme of activities, the Commission is supporting the development of motorways of the sea in four regions: • the Baltic Sea; • western Europe – Atlantic Ocean, North Sea/Irish Sea; • south-western Europe – the western Mediterranean Sea; • south-eastern Europe – the Adriatic, Ionian and eastern Mediterranean Seas. Essentially, the aim is to develop high-quality, integrated short-sea shipping connections that provide door-to-door services which can match or better those offered by road-only journeys. Member States will select routes in view of their current and potential value to the EU economy. Concentrating traffic on such busy routes is more likely to generate the critical mass required to produce economically viable and efficient services.
A common European maritime area
Future developments, such as long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) systems using satellite communications, could have highly beneficial effects on shipping. This is particularly important for short-sea shipping and motorways of the sea where a ship sailing between two Member States leaves the EU customs territory each time it leaves a port to re-enter that territory in the destination port. The Commission plans to launch a wider debate on a ‘common European maritime area’ where both the ship’s journey and goods could be reliably and securely tracked all the way along, thereby decreasing the need for individual controls in purely intra-Community trade.
To encourage modal shift, i.e. to ensure the expected increase in road freight transport is diverted to other modes, the Commission has run the Marco Polo programme to provide support to commercial operators setting up services which focus on modes other than road. Marco Polo funds may be used to support the initial operation of new services, although these should become self-funding once established, as well as encouraging cooperation amongst different operators in the freight logistics sector. A new phase of the Marco Polo programme, running from 2007 to 2013, was adopted in 2006, and will have a total budget of EUR 400 million.
Feasibility studies on all four corridors have been funded from the TEN-T budget in 2005–06. For the Baltic Sea, a master-plan study – addressing both goods flows and maritime infrastructure – was completed in spring 2006.The next step is to try out real concrete projects, and Finland and Germany have published a call for proposals seeking partners to implement land–sea transport chains through their two countries’ ports. With strong interest in the call, projects selected will be eligible to seek funding from the TEN-T budget in the forthcoming call for proposals.
IMPROVING EUROPE’S COMMERCIAL SEA PORTS
he amount of cargo handled by European ports continues to grow: for example, the volume of container traffic moving in and out of sea ports has doubled in recent years. In fact, nearly 90 % of all EU trade with third countries passes through the Community’s sea ports, which load and unload about 3.5 billion tonnes of freight in a year.
The Commission is committed to helping Europe’s ports expand and become more competitive. It aims to provide financial and regulatory support so that ports can operate in a fair, open and efficient manner. This should help attract new customers and, by offering sophisticated facilities, ports will play a key role in providing Europe’s transport operators with workable intermodal solutions. Ensuring that ports can provide safe, reliable transfer of goods from ships to other modes – such as rail, road and inland waterways – will give transport companies and freight-forwarders greater options than road-only journeys. This will help the EU achieve its aim of moving more freight off Europe’s overstretched road network, thereby reducing congestion and pollution.
Future ports policy
The Commission is currently analysing the situation in ports in a wide and open consultation process with stakeholders. The aim is to improve the competitiveness and productivity of European ports in order to prepare them for the challenges of congestion and increased trade generally expected. Possible instruments to assist the port sector will be defined at the end of this consultation process.
The Commission is backing improvements to port facilities and their hinterland connections through the TEN-T programme. The aim is to increase and modernise port capacity, and improve their ability to handle intermodal transport activity. For example, one multimodal project costing around EUR 12.8 billion is now making major improvements to road, rail and maritime infrastructure in the Iberian Peninsula. This includes funding to upgrade Atlantic ports such as Setúbal and Sines. The project will also improve the links from these ports to Spanish cities like Seville, Vigo and La Coruña. As part of the EU’s commitment to creating motorways of the sea and the adoption of the Marco Polo II programme for 2007–13, money has been committed to improving port facilities and infrastructure across the four key routes. Funding will also be used to improve port efficiency by supporting the installation of new electronic logistics management systems. Money will also be spent on a range of safety and security initiatives.
MARITIME TRANSPORT POLICY
MARITIME SECURITY: PROTECTION
he terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and subsequent attacks in Madrid and London, show how vulnerable transport infrastructure is to sabotage. All transport modes now have to find the right balance between providing commercial openness and effective security procedures.
In the field of maritime transport, the EU has been active in recent years, legislating to improve security at ports and at sea to complement international efforts in this important area. The raised threat needs a global response, and after the terror attacks in the United States the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted a new Chapter XI-2 in its Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The ISPS Code includes detailed requirements for governments and port authorities to improve security at port facilities, based on security assessments and plans covering issues such as cargo monitoring, inspection and control of access. In support, the Commission adopted a regulation on enhancing ship and port facility security.The aim is to protect ships and ports from terrorism; it incorporates the ISPS Code into European law and extends its application to domestic operations with the EU.
The EU-wide approach to port security should also help to establish efficient and effective networking between European ports.
Boosting port security
The above initiative only covers the ships themselves and the parts of port terminals in which ships are loaded and unloaded. Therefore, to enhance security at European ports further, the Commission put forward further proposals, which must be fully implemented by Member States by June 2007. This directive, on enhancing port security, aims to bring a coordinated approach to security matters in ports as a whole and requires that, for each port: • a port security assessment is undertaken to decide what measures are required; • a port security plan is produced that sets out the port’s security arrangements; • a port security officer is appointed to coordinate security measures; and • a security authority is established to implement the security plan and to guarantee an effective link between decision makers and security ‘on the ground’.
In February 2006, the Commission also adopted a communication and proposed legislation that aims to enhance supply-chain security. Complementing the new rules for maritime security, the proposals call all operators in the logistic chain to bring their security performance up to minimum European standards. In return, they will receive ‘secure operator’ status, which will allow them fast-track treatment at various nodes and a one-stop-shop approach with customs for external trade.
MARITIME SAFETY: HIGH STANDARDS ACROSS THE EU
n recent years, the EU and its Member States have been at the forefront of improving maritime safety legislation and promoting high-quality standards. The aim is to eliminate substandard shipping, increase the protection of crews and passengers, reduce the risk of environmental pollution, and ensure that operators who follow good practices are not put at commercial disadvantage by others who are prepared to take short cuts with vessel safety.
Responding to disaster
The Commission produced a first set of measures in the early 1990s as a reaction to environmental catastrophes that struck Europe’s coastline. In December 1992, the Aegean Sea ran aground near La Coruña, Spain, and in the following month the Braer grounded off the Shetland Islands, in the United Kingdom. Both tankers spilled thousands of tonnes of oil, causing widespread pollution. The Commission responded in 1993 with its first specific communication for maritime safety, ‘A common policy on safe seas’, which called for: • the universal implementation of existing international maritime safety rules; • complete enforcement of those rules via port state control (see page 11); and • the development of navigational aids and traffic monitoring systems to improve maritime safety. The Sea Empress sinking off Pembrokeshire, in the UK, with 72 000 tonnes of oil spilt in February 1996, showed that these measures would not be sufficient to clean up European coasts. Then on 12 December 1999, a major disaster struck the coast of Europe: the Erika sank off the French Atlantic coast causing a spill of heavy fuel and massive damage to the coastal and sea environment, as well as to the local fishing and tourism industries. In response to this disaster a first package of safety measures – ‘Promoting safer seas’ – was proposed. The Erika 1 package came into force in July 2003 with measures aimed at: improving existing port state control measures; strengthening the legislation as regards classification societies which conduct structural safety checks on ships on behalf of flag states; and developing a timetable to phase out the use of single-hull oil tankers worldwide.
EU action in the field of maritime transport, and in particular maritime safety and protection of the environment, generates significant added value to the international framework (IMO conventions). The transposition of IMO rules into the EU legal system ensures their enforcement across the entire European Union. In addition, when feasible, the EU plays an important role in improving international standards by adopting stringent requirements regionally and then promoting their adoption at international level.
MARITIME TRANSPORT POLICY
Pro-active policies: a third package of measures
In November 2005, the Commission drafted another set of proposals, designed to improve Europe’s maritime safety regime still further. This third package is based on the efforts of the Commission to improve safety using a proactive approach rather than reacting in response to maritime accidents. The aim is to reinforce the existing European maritime safety legislation and to transpose major international instruments into Community law. Therefore, the Commission’s proposals target substandard ships, while making it easier for reputable owners/operators to go about their business. A subsequent set of measures, known as the Erika 2 package, followed, with three new steps to improve safety: • the creation of a European Maritime Safety Agency to bolster the enforcement of safety rules (see box page 10); • the setting-up of a Community maritime monitoring and information system for vessels sailing in European waters; • a mechanism to increase compensation for victims of oil spills. Just as Europe was recovering from the Erika disaster, another single-hull tanker called the Prestige went down off the Galician coast in November 2002. The Prestige was carrying heavy fuel oil and the pollution caused major damage to Spanish and French coastal ecosystems. The Commission’s response was swift as it developed new safety measures in record time. As a result singlehull oil tankers were banned from carrying heavy fuel oil in and out of European ports from October 2003 and the timetable for the withdrawal of these types of tankers by 2010 was accelerated. In addition, legislation to hit polluters with tougher sanctions was introduced. There are seven key measures, all designed to supplement and strengthen existing legislation. Reinforcing prevention of accidents and pollution 1. Improve the quality of European flags – the aim is to ensure that all Member States uphold international rules on ships that sail under their flags. 2. Review legislation on port state control – this should improve the quality and effectiveness of inspections and target less well-run ships (see page 11). 3. Amend the directive on traffic monitoring – strengthening the legal framework to help ships in distress, and supporting the continued development of SafeSeaNet (see box page 12). 4. Improve rules relating to classification societies – the aim is to improve the quality of work carried out by these societies, which are responsible for visiting, inspecting and certifying ships. Effective accident response 5. Develop a harmonised European framework for accident investigation, improving the effectiveness, objectivity and transparency of investigations, and making investigating bodies more independent. 6. Introduce regulations ensuring fair compensation to passengers in the event of an accident. 7. Introduce a directive on shipowners’ civil liability coupled with a mandatory insurance scheme.
THE EUROPEAN MARITIME SAFETY AGENCY
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)’s main role is to provide the European Commission and Member States with scientific and technical support relating to legislation for maritime safety, maritime security, pollution prevention and pollution response. The agency is also committed to improving cooperation between Europe’s maritime countries. It also works closely with international organisations and relevant industry players. EMSA’s operational duties include looking after the EU’s SafeSeaNet project, essential for the monitoring of maritime traffic around Europe, and assisting Member States with additional operational means to respond to pollution caused by ships. For more information: http://www.emsa.europa.eu/
Raising safety standards for ships and seafarers
Making sure a vessel is fit for purpose is primarily the responsibility of the shipowner and operator. Traditionally, the outside world has relied on the checks made by the flag state to ensure owners and operators are meeting their obligations. But despite the commitments these states have all made to enforce internationally agreed rules, the ability and/or willingness of many to do so varies enormously. The Commission is working within international forums to see this situation improved, seeking to have states meet their commitments and reducing the incentives for shipowners to flag their vessels in states seen as less stringent in their application of international rules. Likewise the Commission also aims to ensure that the classification societies, which provide the technical assistance to flag states in verifying ships’ compliance with the rules, work professionally and apply standards correctly.
Encouraging quality control of classification societies
As Europe coped with the Erika and Prestige accidents, the Commission pushed to strengthen existing regulations relating to classification societies. New regulations were adopted to raise the quality of work carried out by these societies. If their performance falls short of the required standard, their authorisation to operate in the EU can be withdrawn. The Commission’s third package of maritime safety measures also includes proposals to improve the work of classification societies. It wants to create a new and independent system of quality control which all societies must adhere to and reform the current system of sanctions, allowing a wide range of sanctions, including financial penalties adapted to the realities of the sector. The Commission believes this could be achieved by harmonising and strengthening structures that have already been established by the 10 largest societies.
MARITIME TRANSPORT POLICY
Improving crew conditions
Working at sea is among the toughest of professions – that is why improving the safety training of ships’ crews and ensuring that they have good living and working conditions is a priority for the Commission. Social conditions are absolutely crucial for job satisfaction and for sustaining motivation and therefore could have an effect on performance of seafarers. Inadequate living and working conditions may well be the cause of poor performance that could jeopardise safety at sea and put the environment at risk. Most Community texts relating to health and safety issues and to the prevention of accidents at work on a broad basis are also applicable to workers at sea. Moreover, in the mid-1990s, specific Community legislation was introduced relating to the working hours of sailors and the levels of safety training they receive (4) and is submitted to the control of port state authorities (5). Highly qualified and experienced seafarers are absolutely essential for ensuring safety at sea and the protection of the environment; they are indeed the driving force for a prosperous shipping industry. The underlying objective of the Commission’s action in this field is to ensure that crews that are employed on-board ships of the Member States, as well as on-board those calling at Community ports, are – irrespective of their origin – adequately educated, trained and certified. Hence, the European Union has adopted an extensive legislative framework since 1994, which has been further updated and strengthened since 2003. This legislation contains, on the one hand, underlying legislation (6) transposing into Community law the international training and certification requirements of the STCW Convention (7) and,on the other hand,specific legislation establishing a procedure for Communitywide recognition of certificates of competency issued by third countries (8) and the recognition of seafarers’ certificates issued by the Member States (9).
Improving the quality and effectiveness of control in ports
It is a sad fact that some flag states ignore internationally recognised rules on ship safety.Unscrupulous operators can take advantage of this situation by re-flagging to operate under one of the more lax countries. To counter the negative effects of this practice, the Commission has pioneered the port state control approach to improving maritime safety. This puts the onus on port states to carry out inspections to root out suspect ships, regardless of their flag. Since the mid1990s, the EU has been developing a framework to establish common criteria for the control of ships calling at Member States’ ports, which includes harmonised procedures for inspection and detention. Moves to strengthen port state control continued after the Erika accident – new legislation was adopted that made it possible to ban substandard ships from EU ports if they failed inspection on several occasions. A list of banned ships is now published regularly on the Internet. The Commission’s third safety package contains yet more proposals to improve port state control inspection regimes. The intention is to come down as hard as possible on ships that pose a risk while ensuring that vessels with a good track record are inspected less frequently. This more flexible approach should improve the competitive standing of responsible operators at the cost of those known to run poor ships.
(4) OJ L 167 of 2.7.1999, p. 33. (5) OJ L 14 of 20.1.2000, p. 29. (6) Directive 94/58/EC of the Council of 22 November 1994 (OJ L 319, 12.12.1994, p. 28), Directive 98/35/EC of the Council of 25 May 1998 amending Directive 94/58/EC on the minimum level of training of seafarers (OJ L 172, 17.6.1998, p. 1), consolidated by Directive 2001/25/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 April 2001 (OJ L 136, 18.5.2001, p. 17). (7) Convention of the International Maritime Organisation on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW Convention). (8) Directive 2003/103/EC on the minimum level of training of seafarers (OJ L 326, 13.12.2003, p. 28). (9) Directive 2005/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the mutual recognition of seafarers' certificates issued by the Member States and amending Directive 2001/25/EC, OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 160. (4) OJ L 167 of 2.7.1999, p. 33.
Reinforcing vessel traffic monitoring within Europe
Europe’s sea lanes are among the busiest in the world. Sophisticated, well-run traffic monitoring systems are therefore vital to avoid collisions and to monitor potentially dangerous cargoes. The Commission is committed to supporting the development of new technology in this area,and has been at the forefront of establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring system called SafeSeaNet (see box). The current package aims to improve traffic monitoring legislation, by ensuring that all relevant Member States are connected to SafeSeaNet, and that fishing vessels over 15 metres long are fitted with an automatic identification system (AIS) to reduce the risk of collisions.The proposal will also seek to direct vessels in distress to the nearest suitable ‘place of refuge’, in which the danger to life and the environment may be minimised.
SAFESEANET: IMPROVING THE EXCHANGE OF MARITIME INFORMATION
SafeSeaNet is an electronic data information system that allows authorities to monitor the movement of ships carrying potentially hazardous cargo. Member States can share information about potentially high-risk vessels, ensuring that they are better prepared to respond to problems. The system will also provide authorities with accurate arrival times and details of waste-handling needs.
Reducing pollution, protecting the environment
As maritime oil disasters have proved, the environment is hit hard when ships carrying dangerous cargo run into trouble. As noted above, the Commission is keen to improve the safety of vessels carrying potentially polluting cargo, hence the decision to ban singlehull tankers in view of the risk of grounding. However, that does not prevent unscrupulous or negligent operators and crews from illegally discharging polluting substances into the sea. To counter this practice, measures were introduced in 2000 to improve port reception facilities for ship waste and cargo residues. The directive aims to reduce marine pollution by ensuring that all EU ports provide adequate waste reception facilities, and by collecting a fee from all ships whether they use the facilities or not, under the polluter pays principle, which gives them an incentive to deliver waste ashore rather than dispose of it illegally at sea.
In July 2005, the EU adopted legislation which introduced stiffer sanctions for ship-sourced pollution. Sanctions including criminal charges can be applied to anyone – including shipowners, ship managers, charterers, classification societies, etc. – who causes pollution, either intentionally, recklessly or by serious negligence.
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