What are the rules about ports of refuge?
international law there are co-operation obligations for the ship and
obligations for States to take adequate measures and to inform and
co-operate with other States and persons concerned. But there is no
obligation to provide shelter to ships in this kind of situations.
the Erika accident, the Commission proposed rules on places of refuge. In
the traffic monitoring directive (part of Erika 2) it was agreed that all
Member States shall develop plans on how to deal with this kind of
situations and inform the Commission of these measures.
to the directive "such plans shall contain the necessary arrangements
and procedures to ensure that ships in distress can immediately go to a
place of refuge subject to authorisation of the authorities". This
was agreed this summer and has to be implemented before February 2004.
Clearly, ports of refuge is one of the areas where an anticipated
implementation is needed. The Commission services will initiate
appropriate action, in co-operation with the European Maritime Safety
Agency, to take the matter forward.
What is the level of damage of this accident, compared to Erika?
level of the total damage depends on many factors. First of all it depends
on the amount and type of oil released. In this respect, it may be
compared to the Erika accident. In fact the Prestige carried
more than double the amount of oil compared to Erika, but whether all of
this will end up in the ocean is not clear. It is possible that most of
the oil that has sunk with the ship may stay in the tanks. Given the high
pressure at 3,600 metres depth and the low temperatures, it is possible
that the oil will never float to the surface.
course, much depend on where the oil that is already spilled goes. The oil
is spread over a large area and therefore a large part of the coastline is
likely to be affected. But before we know what areas are hit and what sort
of damage and losses it creates, it is simply not possible to give any
figure or even rough estimation of the total costs.
What additional measures will the Commission now propose?
de Palacio, European Commission vice-president in charge of transport and
energy, has already written to all Member States' Ministers asking them to
ensure an accelerated application of the ERIKA packages, as was indicated
by the European Council of Nice.
the Commission had already decided to accelerate:
publication of an indicative black-list of substandard ships that
would have been denied access to EU ports under the new Port State
establishment of the European Maritime Safety Agency. Despite the fact
that the European Council was not able to agree upon the Agency's
location, the Commission decided to set it up provisionally on its own
premises in Brussels. The Commission has conveyed the first meeting of
the Administrative Board, scheduled for 4 December 2002, and is
currently finalising the selection process for the nomination of the
Commission also envisages to:
addition, the Commission intends to write to the EU Ministers and to the
International Maritime Organisation, to propose additional safety measures
for the transport of the extremely polluting, "heavy fuel" oil.
A requirement to carry heavy fuel in modern double hull tankers should be
introduced as a crisis measure, until the double hull regulation has
reached its full implementation. It is important to have such rules
covering not only ships coming to EU ports, but also ships that pass in
transit close to Member States' coasts.
is not acceptable that the most polluting type of oil is carried on board
the oldest and least safe tankers. It is striking that the tankers
involved in the last three accidents that have polluted EU waters (the Erika,
the Baltic Carrier and the Prestige) have all carried heavy
before the "Prestige" accident, the Commission has
decided to make a proposal on penal sanctions on pollution from ships..
This measure will cover accidents as well as deliberate pollution. The
Commission's proposal is scheduled for next year.
Will the available compensation mechanism be sufficient to compensate the
damage? (This covers only the international system-not possible EU
type of incidents is covered by the international oil pollution
compensation system, as laid down in two conventions: the CLC Convention
on shipowners liability and the IOPC Fund (FIPOL). Both Spain and Portugal
are covered by this international regime.
means that the shipowner will be responsible in the case of the Prestige
up to around EUR 25 million, and the Fund (FIPOL) will pay up to EUR
180 million, irrespective of fault. The compensation is thus paid by the
shipowner's insurer (CLC) and the world's oil companies (FIPOL). The
limits have already been raised by 50% but this agreement that was reached
two years ago will only take effect on 1 November 2003.
is not yet possible to estimate the total damage by the incident.
The Council has not taken up the Commission's proposal on an extra Fund
(COPE) to guarantee full compensation in all incidents. What has happened
with the proposal?
is true that the Council has so far refused to discuss the Commission's
COPE Fund proposal, since Member States have considered that it would be
more appropriate to establish a similar mechanism at international level.
But it is also true that the Member States have been very active in
Supplementary Fund, which was developed following the Commission's
proposal for a COPE Fund, has been agreed, but not yet formally adopted.
The Diplomatic Conference adopting the Fund will take place in May 2003.
After that it will take some time to complete the ratification procedure
before it enters into force. This new fund will raise the maximum
compensation considerably. The figure is not yet clear, but the Commission
has argued it has to be EUR 1 billion.
What other measures are available to help the victims?
EU Solidarity Fund has recently been adopted following the floodings in
Germany and Austria. It is supposed to cover major disasters where damage
amounts up to EUR 3 billion or exceed 0.6% of the gross national
income of the Member State concerned.
the fishing sector, Council Regulation (EC) No 2792/1999 laying down the
detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance
in the fisheries sector specifically allows Member States to institute
intermediate compensation for fishermen.
Commission is currently investigating whether any of these measures could
be of relevance for improving the compensation of victims.
How is the Commission helping in the clean-up?
the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection and following the request of
the Spanish authorities, the Commission immediately launched a formal
request for assistance of specialised vessels for recovery of heavy fuel
oil. This request, following Spanish instructions was first (14 November)
directed to the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France and secondly (15
November) to all Member States.
also in the framework of a Regional local plan (Biscay Plan), sent a
specialised vessel that arrived on scene on 16 November. The Netherlands
sent a specialised vessel that arrived on scene on 19 November. Other
specialised vessels from other EU countries are on standby.
urgent written procedure was launched (approved on Friday 15 November), to
enable the sending of a Community task force, if requested by the Spanish
European Commission - Civil Protection and Environmental accidents Unit -
remains in close contact with the Spanish authorities, and since the
morning of 19 November, with the Portuguese authorities.