Franco-German sea safety initiative launched

Transport ministers agree to push for EU system of stricter checks on older ships

The German and French transport ministers have agreed to create a satellite-supported European monitoring system to allow up-to-date information about the condition of merchant ships to be instantly available to authorities. Reinhard Klimmt and Jean-Claude Gayssot agreed the initiative last week, in the aftermath of December's Erika oil spill, which polluted 400 km of France's Atlantic seaboard (ENDS Daily 14 January).

The two ministers also want to see more effective activities by safety authorities and organisations as well as stricter technical standards and, in particular, more frequent structural checks on ships older than 15 years.

Mr Klimmt and Mr Gayssot pledged to push, with the help of a new bilateral working group, for the EU and its member states to take a unified position on improving maritime safety to the International Maritime Organisation and Mr Gayssot reiterated the French government's intention to make safety at sea a political priority at EU level when it takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers in July (ENDS Daily 18 January).

German environmental NGO Nabu called the ministers' initiative "perfectly inadequate". The European parliament had called for a significant strengthening of maritime law after the Braer oil spill off Scotland in 1993, but nothing had happened, the group said. Ships older than 15 years should be banned from EU harbours altogether, it added.

Follow Up:
German transport ministry, tel: +49 30 20 08 20 40, and press release; Nabu, tel: +49 228 4036 142, and press release.

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