EU steps up safety inspections for vessels in ports

Transport ministers reached agreement on a directive aiming to ensure that safety inspections are carried out on all ships calling at EU ports in a bid to prevent pollution at sea.

The proposed directive on port state control, which is part of the Commission’s third maritime safety package, will be transmitted to the European Parliament for opinion in first reading in April 2007 after transport ministers agreed on a general approach on 12 December 2006.

“Inspections will be focused on substandard vessels, which will be checked more often, while the burden shall be alleviated with regard to quality vessels,” the ministers said in a statement.

“Ships that at various occasions have proven not to comply with international standards on safety, health and environment, will be refused access to EU ports,” they agreed.

Some flexibility on inspections was introduced as part of a compromise put forward by the Finnish Presidency. It allows EU member states to miss inspections on 5% of ships with a high-risk profile and on 10% of other ships. Member states shall, however, give “particular attention to ships that do not call often at EU ports,” the ministers agreed. Furthermore, inspection may be postponed for 15 days under specific circumstances to allow authorities more time to carry out their checks.

In parallel, transport ministers agreed to continue their efforts to promote short-sea shipping as part of a programme launched by the Commission in 2003. They agreed to: 

  • Simplify and streamline administrative procedures across the EU in order to make short-sea shipping more attractive to freight transport companies;
  • develop ports “as efficient and seamless nodal points for transhipment between the land and the sea”, and;
  • develop real-time vessel monitoring and positioning systems using the Galileo satellite navigation system.

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