Second set of "Erika proposals" published

EU Commission proposes maritime safety agency, compensation fund, journey monitoring

The European Commission today published a second set of legislative proposals to improve maritime safety. These are in addition to three draft directives proposed in March (ENDS Daily 22 March), and together the two sets form a package which EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio said would "make it possible to build a genuine European maritime safety area".

The new proposals are to create a European maritime safety agency, a European oil spill compensation fund to supplement an existing international fund, and a notification system so that ships travelling in European waters would be monitored regardless of whether they entered a port or not.

The Commission also wants all ships travelling in European waters to carry a "black box" data recorder and for authorities in member states to have the right to order ships to stay in port if "extreme weather conditions" are forecast. The need for this final option was raised recently by French transport minister Jean-Claude Gayssot, after a chemical tanker sank off France's north west coast (ENDS Daily 2 November) less than a year after the Erika oil tanker broke up. Both ships sank during storms.

Ms de Palacio used today's publication of the second "Erika proposals" to urge EU transport ministers and the European Parliament to come to an agreement on the first set as soon as possible (ENDS Daily 1 December). She pointed out that the Council is allowed to use qualified majority voting to reach a common position on this issue, possibly a criticism of Mr Gayssot's attempts to achieve consensus. There have been reports that the Commission feels Mr Gayssot's consensus approach will lead the Council to adopt a much weaker common position than it would otherwise.

Of today's proposals, creation of a European maritime safety agency may prove controversial with some member states, some of which have already expressed dislike for the idea. But the Commission said the agency was needed because of the burgeoning number of safety standards. It said the agency would be small, with staff limited to 50.

Its main duties would be to support and monitor member states compliance with EU maritime safety rules, evaluate the effectiveness of the rules, collect data, audit maritime classification societies and inspect member state ports in order to check "the conditions under which port state control is carried out".

It is also possible that some of the Commission's latest proposals will receive a less than warm welcome from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has criticised EU and American attempts to impose unilateral maritime safety standards. The IMO argues that the transboundary nature of the shipping industry requires globally-uniform laws (ENDS Daily 17 March).Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and press release, and the communication. The proposals will soon be posted here

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