Parliament backs port security directive

On 19 January 2004
Parliament’s transport committee voted in favour of a
proposed directive enhancing port security and adopted amendments
proposed by the rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

International Conventions

At international level safety at sea has, since
the Titanic disaster of 1914, been safeguarded by the Convention on
Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), regulated by the International
Maritime Organisation (IMO). After the terrorist attacks of the
early 2000s, a new chapter of SOLAS was agreed: the International
Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The code sets detailed
security requirements for governments and port authorities on port
security: staffing; equipment; assessment; monitoring cargoes;
controlling access. It also sets similar rules for shipping
companies regarding security and certification of vessels
under SOLAS. 

European legislation

An EU  Regulation was formulated to incorporate the ISPS code into EU
law. However, the code only covers the physical area between the
ship and the port. The Commission therefore proposed a directive in
Feb 2004, to cover areas beyond this space, in and around

Container Security Initiative

In January 2002, the US launched the CSI,
whereby maritime containers identified as a possible security risk
through intelligence procedures, are intercepted at ports
throughout the world. By a set of agreement between US and national
governments, containers are screened at national ports by officials
from the US Customs & Border Protection, working with national

EU Directive

The main dispute within the EU
is on the question of costs: who amongst
governments, the EU and port authorities pays for what. Parliament
has proposed that the Commission do a cost–benefit analysis to
resolve this issue. The other main Parliamentary amendments to
the Council position on the proposal are:

  • member states should decide on the exact
    physical scope of the directive
  • inspections to ensure
    implementation should be carried out by the
    Commission and not by member states
  • the proposal for a port security advisory
    committee should be dropped

The European Sea Ports
(ESPO) takes the view that port security
should be regulated within measures for the whole transport
chain (i.e. security of transport connections to ports) and not
targeted specifically. It fears duplication and wasted resources.
It also argues, together with its US counterpart the American
Association of Port Authorities, that costs should primarily be met
from the public purse. It supports a full cost-benefit analysis of
the Commission proposal.


Japan, some Asian ports and most major EU ports
have joined the CSI scheme. The US plans to
expand it further into Asia, Africa and South America.

In worldwide moves to combat terrorism after the
twin towers and the Madrid attacks, transport systems were
identified as areas of particular vulnerability. Within this,
ports, vulnerable both as targets for attack and as points of
illegal entry for people and for weapons, were a priority. Measures
have therefore been taken to strengthen port security both at
European and international level. The Commission has proposed a
directive [COM (2004) 76], the international community has
strengthened existing conventions and the US has instituted a
security system for maritime containers (detailed below).

  • Parliament will vote in plenary in March 2005
  • Parliament's amendments to the Commission proposal will be
    referred back to Council

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