Commission proposes tougher maritime safety rules

In response to allegations that the EU had failed to act on maritime safety, the Commission is to propose tougher maritime safety rules including a ban on 65 “floating rust buckets” from EU waters.

On Tuesday, 3 December, the European Commission is to issue a document calling for a list of 65 ships to be banned from EU waters from July 2003. The list includes 25 ships flying the Turkish flag, 11 flagged to Vincent and Grenadines and eight to Cambodia. Most of them are bulk tankers, seven are oil tankers.

The document also reveals that France, the country hit by the Erika disaster three years ago, has failed to comply with new EU obligations to inspect at least 25 percent of ships calling in ports. While most Member States reached this target last year, France did not examine more than 10 percent of ships calling in its ports.

The Commission’s document calls on the Member States to speed up the implementation of the Erika packages. It pledges to set up an EU maritime safety agency by the end of 2003.


At the Copenhagen Summit,France, Spain and Portugalwill invite the other Member States to support a ban of old Prestige-style single-hull tankers from EU waters ahead of the deadlines decided in the Erika package. Italy has already embraced the proposal.

Ahead of an EU decision on the matter,France and Spainwill adopt national regulations aimed at making it almost impossible for single-hull tankers older than 15 years that carry fuel oil or tar to enter their waters. Under the new rules, tankers traveling through these countries' exclusive economic zones, which stretch 200 miles out to sea, will have to provide information about their cargo, destination, flag and operators.

Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palaciohas written to all Member States to ask them to accelerate and anticipate as far as possible the EU rules included in the Erika packages rather than wait until the implementation deadlines originally agreed.

In an interview, she also called for an immediate ban on transportation of environmentally dangerous heavy fuels by old, single-hulled tankers. "We are going to call for an administrative that the most risky fuel, which is the heavy fuel, is not transported on the most risky ships. This can be implemented at the beginning of next year," she said.

Other proposals that go beyond those agreed under the Erika I and II packages include creating special routes for the transport of dangerous and toxic materials and establishing a common language of communication as English is used in aviation.

Environmental NGOs likeFriends of the Earth and T&Ehave called on the Commission to introduce the 'polluter pays' principle also with respect to maritime transport. Only then, T&E says, would oil companies and ship owners "reconsider their dubious way of handling hazardous trade and look for safer and more sustainable ways of transport fossil fuel". The EU's draft directive on environmental liability is to be discussed in the EP's committees in the coming weeks.


After the Prestige incident off the Spanish coast on 19 November, the EU has been accused of failing to act to prevent such disasters, despite the public outrage following the Erika disaster in 1999. Following that event, the EU adopted the Erika I and Erika II packages with implementation deadlines of July 2003 and February 2004 (seeEURACTIV on 20 November 2002).

Moreover, EU Member States have accused each other of not sufficiently inspecting ships calling in their ports. French President Jacques Chirac, in particular, expressed outrage at the "inability of those in charge, politically, nationally and particularly at European level" to prevent the disaster.


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