The European Parliament’s transport committee voted to strengthen rules aimed at preventing and controlling the effects of accidents at sea and ship pollution, two weeks after the opening of the ‘Erika’ trial in Paris.
Rules on catching substandard ships should be strengthened and clarified, according to reports likely to be backed by Parliament next month, after they were adopted nearly unanimously by its transport committee on 27 February 2007.
MEPs agreed with Commission proposals to make optional International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules on flag state obligations mandatory for all member states.
In previous discussions, the Council had opposed such a measure, which would require countries to check that each ship sailing under their flag complies with international safety standards. Member states say that this would generate too many additional costs for their administrations.
As regards Commission proposals to inspect all ships coming through European ports (port state controls), the committee laid out detailed provisions for strengthening the inspection regime. It calls for all vessels that have a high-risk profile and for all passenger ships and oil and chemical tankers of more than 12 years in age to be subjected to additional inspections. Ships that are detained in port more than twice in 36 months could be banned from EU ports.
MEPs also voted to strengthen Commission proposals to increase the liability of ship operators and to compensate third parties and passengers in the event of accidents.
On the other hand, they opposed Commission proposals to leave member states a choice whether to accept that ships in distress be transported to their coasts for repairs, as this can result in loss of precious time before rescue operations take place. Indeed, countries are often reluctant to expose themselves to the financial and environmental risks. The committee therefore called for a single authority to be set up, with sole responsibility for assistance when disasters occur and with the capacity to take completely independent decisions.