EU steps up maritime safety in bid to prevent sea pollution

Member states have agreed to international maritime safety rules
to protect EU shores from oil spills. Recognition of sailors’
qualifications is also to be made easier to cut down on red tape
and favour mobility.

EU transport ministers strengthened EU maritime safety rules on
9 December by expanding the application of the International Safety
Management (ISM) code to ships sailing in EU domestic waters,
whatever the flag they may fly.

The code will now apply to passenger and cargo ships as well as
drilling installations, the Dutch Presidency indicated in a
statement. It concerns crew members’ knowledge and experience,
safety procedures, on-board contingency plans and regular
inspections of vessels maintenance.

However, attempts at introducing minimum EU rules to punish ship
captains responsible for pollution failed after they were blocked
by Malta, Greece and Cyprus, Reuters reported. Instead, the
ministers agreed to seek agreement at international level to insert
sanctions into maritime conventions.

In spite of the progress made, Transport Commissioner Jacques
Barrot said there remained some “weak links” in the maritime safety
chain that needed to be addressed “progressively”. He reiterated
his intention to clarify the “chain of responsibility” in maritime
transport.

Ministers have also simplified procedures for recognition of
seafarer’s qualification across the EU. “Up until now, European
crew members’ diplomas were subject to comparison,” said the Dutch
Presidency. Cutting down on red tape will make it “easier for crew
members to work for shipping companies in other EU member states,”
the Presidency said, hoping this will contribute to reducing the
“huge shortages on the maritime labour market”.

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