Justice and home affairs ministers last week rubberstamped six legislative proposals of the EU’s third maritime safety package, which aims to reduce maritime accidents and pollution in Europe.
The package, tabled by the European Commission in 2005, includes eight draft laws. Last week’s Justice and Home Affairs Council approved four of them on Thursday (26 February), laying down rules on ship inspection, port state control, monitoring vessel traffic and investigating accidents. Two further proposals were adopted on Friday (27 February) on common standards for maritime administration activities and passenger carriers’ liability for accidents.
The legislation had a rough passage through the Parliament and Council, with the two institutions finally agreeing on the details during conciliation negotiations in December.
MEPs originally demanded much tougher laws than member states were willing to accept. Among other things, they wanted to make strict International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules on flag-state obligations compulsory and make ship inspection regimes in ports mandatory, including the right to permanently ban ships that fail to comply with maritime safety standards (EURACTIV 25/09/08).
The compromise is less stringent than the Parliament would have liked. Inspections in ports will concentrate on substandard ships, with lighter obligations for “quality vessels”. The package’s ultimate sanction against hazardous vessels is to refuse them entry into EU ports for three months.
The Commission had originally proposed to make safety investigations mandatory for all serious accidents, but the compromise relaxed this provision, only applying it to “very serious” cases.
The legislation seeks to fill in the gaps in two legislative packages that followed the Erika (December 1999) and Prestige (November 2002) accidents (see EURACTIV LinksDossier), as failure to comply with established safety standards still poses a threat and gives rogue shipowners an unfair competitive advantage.
The five laws will be adopted once the Parliament has voted on them in the Parliament’s plenary session in March. Two further laws on flag-state obligations and shipowners’ civil liability are still to be agreed upon by ministers.