European Parliament debates "Erika" package

Committee calls for firmer controls on "illegal" ships, slower phase out of single-hulled tankers

The European Parliament's transport committee yesterday welcomed European Commission proposals for tougher maritime safety rules following the "Erika" oil spill off France in 1999. The committee adopted opinions on three draft directives proposed by the Commission in March (ENDS Daily 22 March), which will now be debated in plenary session.

The committee backed a plan to tighten port state controls, but called for firmer action against sub-standard vessels. Any that "pose a serious risk to our waters should be banned no matter what their age," MEPs agreed.

In this context, the Commission's proposal to publish a blacklist every six months, which would ban any ship included from entering EU ports was not sufficient, the committee said, because such vessels would still be able to sail in Community waters even if they did not call at any EU ports.

Tougher action was also needed to ensure that EU member states implemented maritime safety legislation "in its entirety," the committee said. It called on the EU to keep working towards an improved international framework through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The committee also called for all vessels entering EU ports to have a voyage data recorder, known as a "black box," which "present a simple method of monitoring accidents and thereby enhancing safety."

Responding to the Commission proposal to phase out single-hulled oil tankers, the committee endorsed its rapporteur's opinion that the plan was too narrowly focused. As shown by the sinking of the Erika double-hulled oil tanker, MEPs agreed, "oil spills do not only depend on whether a tanker has a single or a double hull, but are caused by a combination of factors, e.g. corrosion, lack of maintenance".

The committee suggested a more gradual phase-out of oil tankers built before 1976 than the Commission - which has proposed to withdraw them between 2003 and 2010 - so as not to "disrupt...the market." MEPs backed only minor changes to Commission proposals for stricter rules governing the classification societies that issue ship registrations and conduct inspections.

Follow Up:
European parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2005, the three reports on maritime safety.

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