Vice President Siim Kallas called upon Member States to ratify without delay the latest update of the International Convention for liability of carriers by sea and the compensation of passengers in case of accidents (Athens Convention), in order to advance its entry into force. He recalled that specific EU legislation based on this Convention will enter into force at the end of 2012.
He has also written to the Italian Transport Minister Corrado Passera to express his condolences about the tragic accident and loss of life and to offer the support of the services under his responsibility. The European Commission services and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) are in regular close contact with the Italian authorities to follow and accompany as necessary the rescue and investigation operations.
EU law provides for rules as to maritime accident investigations, the independence of the investigation and as appropriate the cooperation of concerned Member States and EU services. Investigation results will need to be made available at the latest within one year and to be shared with EU and Member States. This ensures that any lessons to be learned from a maritime accident are taken into account in legislative reviews such as the one currently ongoing in the field of passenger ship safety.
With regard to possible oil spill risks and within its pollution response capacities, EMSA can activate at the request of a concerned Member state anti-pollution means at short notice. For this purpose a dedicated oil spill response vessel under a stand-by contract with EMSA is stationed at La Spezia, Northern Italy.
There are robust rules in place at international (International Maritime Safety Organisation, IMO) and EU levels, governing the construction and the safety procedures for passenger ships, strict certification and inspection requirements as well as rules on the liability of carriers and compensation of victims. But ship design and operation of ships continue to evolve significantly. For this reason, the Commission has been working, since 2010, on a review of EU legislation on passenger ships to ensure it keeps pace with the latest evolution in design, operational procedures and technology used in this sector. That work must now fully take into account any lessons to be learnt from the Costa Concordia.
Cruise liner passengers are an important source of income for Malta with the Costa Concordia also visiting Malta in the past. During 2011, the overall number of cruise passengers reached an all-time high of 556,564, up by 13.3 per cent over the previous year, according to the National Statistics Office. Passengers in transit were in the majority, with 79.9 per cent of the total (444,831). The largest share of visitors came from EU countries, and numbered 436,058.