EU Parliament backs "Erika" proposals

MEPs broadly support draft maritime safety rules; call for bans on any ships in poor condition

The European Parliament's yesterday gave its first reading to three draft maritime safety directives known as the "Erika" package (ENDS Daily 22 March), backing most aspects of the Commission's proposals but calling for some measures to be strengthened.

Under the ship safety directive, MEPs called for a Commission target of 6,000 ship inspections annually by national port authorities to be reinstated. In its first reading, the Council of Ministers reduced this figure to 3,000. Authorities should also be given greater powers to ban dangerous ships, the parliament said.

MEPs voted to broaden the directive to cover not only oil tankers but also gas and chemical tankers, bulk carriers and passenger ships. They also called for authorities to have powers to ban ships in poor condition whatever their age, rather than only those over 15 years old. They further demanded that governments should be able to ban dangerous ships from their territorial waters rather than simply from ports. Under another amendment, ships would be required to carry "black box" recording equipment, similar to those used in aircraft.

On the issue of an accelerated phase-out of single-hulled oil tankers, MEPs proposed a slightly different schedule to that agreed by EU transport ministers and the Commission earlier this autumn (ENDS Daily 3 October). Following the MEPs' vote, EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio said that the parliament's schedule was acceptable. A graduated phase-out would be complete by 2015, but a phase-out at EU level would only take place if negotiations next April for an international ban on single-hulled oil tankers fail.

The third draft directive aims to tighten rules on ship inspection and classification societies. MEPs added requirements for the Commission to present "stringent rules and ship maintenance inspection procedures," to identify classification societies with "excessively high" accident rates and to have the option of withdrawing societies' rights to inspect and class ships. Other changes include a call for financial compensation limits for ship spills to be reviewed within three years of the directive entering into force and for it to be made illegal for classification societies to have business, family or personal links with their clients.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: 32 2 284 2111, and plenary sitting minutes.

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