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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > Safer maritime transport
Graphic element Safer maritime transport

Over the past years, serious accidents involving passenger and freight vessels have resulted in a number of fatalities and major damage to the environment. Results from research projects in the field of maritime safety and environmental protection are now available on the Commission's web site.

Recent incidents in the Galapagos and Greek islands highlight the latent devastation and potential loss of life inherent in maritime accidents. They underline the need to learn from previous disasters, such as those of the Erika, Sea Empress, Braer and Herald of Free Enterprise.

In spite of such disasters, the potential of shipping as a substitute for more environmentally damaging or costly transport modes is clear. However, the risks and possible consequences of maritime disasters need to be minimised.

The European Commission recognises these potential risks, and has therefore committed itself to funding research projects targeted at improving maritime safety and environmental protection. Results of the research within this field are now available on the Commission's new web site:

Maritime safety and environmental protection

The EU's overall objectives for research in waterborne transport are the provision of safe and efficient means for the carriage of freight, seafarers and passengers and protection of the environment. Other specific objectives are to increase the understanding of the human element in ship operations, and to improve certification requirements and training.

Altogether 55 projects and concerted actions have been commissioned within waterborne transport research, with a total EU contribution of 50 million Euro.

Safer Ship Operation

The projects on safer ship operation address design of equipment, working practices that take new technology and design into account, and the development of innovative methodologies in accident investigation.

The Commission's web site presents results from the specification, development, testing and demonstration of new components, measures and methods to increase safety. These results include recommendations for decision-makers to be used at a European level. A long-term goal is to achieve a common base for specific safety measures, including a "black box" for ships.

  Human errors

The human element is an essential factor in maritime safety. The Commission has financed a number of projects targeted at understanding the human element in accidents and providing a common European approach to maritime education and training.

Safe and efficient operation requires optimised man-machine interaction. Research is being carried out on working conditions and safety impacts, and on measures to improve the working environment, aimed at reducing operator workload and increasing comfort and alertness. Findings are published on the web site.

  Future research on maritime safety

Most of the waterborne transport research initiatives under the 4th Framework Programme will be developed further under the 5th Framework Programme. The 5th Framework Programme emphasises the development of transport systems which are economic, safe, and beneficial to the environment and to quality of life. The European Commission expects to contribute a total of 370 million Euro to a Key Action on Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality, including a number of projects in the maritime sector.

The research priorities concerning maritime safety and environmental protection will be technologies that underpin a "sea policy", which exploits the potential of the sea whilst also improving the competitiveness of the maritime industry.


  Further Information and Notes to Editors


The transport research programme forms part of the Fourth Framework Programme, which set out the activities to be launched by the European Community in the field of Research and Technological Development (RTD) between 1994 and 1998.

The transport programme focused on helping to achieve the objectives of the Community's Common Transport Policy (CTP), namely efficient and cost-effective transport networks for goods and passengers while minimising both energy consumption and the social and environmental impacts of transport. The Commission has contributed ECU 270 million Euro to the programme, with further funding (often 50%) coming from project partners and their sponsors.

The transport programme has financed around 280 projects within seven main areas of research: strategic research; rail transport; air transport; waterborne transport; road transport; urban transport; and integrated transport chains. The programme was set up by the former DGVII (Transport), and is now managed by the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport. Altogether 37 projects and concerted actions were commissioned on urban transport research, with a total EU contribution of 27 million Euro.

Under the Fifth Framework Programme, which started up in 1999, transport policy research is based around themes rather than transport modes. The work is covered by the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality", and the European Commission expects to contribute 370 million Euro.

Other transport-related RTD is carried out elsewhere in the Fifth Framework programme - covering such topics as aeronautics, urban development, and new vehicle and information technologies.

The transport programme can only achieve its objectives if project results are effectively disseminated to people who can use them - notably policy-makers, planners, industry and the research community.

Therefore the Commission has funded a project specifically aimed at disseminating information on the transport programme as a whole, supplementing the more limited efforts of each project. The aim is to use cost-effective means of communication to specific audiences in the EU and in Central and Eastern Europe.

The project (called EXTRA, EXploitation of TRAnsport research) has developed an Internet site (, opened an Information Bureau and provides complementary activities (newsletters, events) to raise awareness of the programme.

The Information Bureau can be contacted by telephone:
+ 44 (0) 1235 46 42 46,
by fax: + 44 (0) 1235 43 65 51
or by e-mail to:

It provides printed copies of information on the web site, as well as helping with more general enquiries on transport research. A handy web site user guide is provided on request.

Users are encouraged to register with the Bureau to receive monthly e-mail bulletins announcing the latest information on the web.

The next few months should see a large increase in the volume of results. Analyses will be provided on the contribution of research in developing key policy areas.

See also
Website reveals research results on sustainable mobility
Maritime safety and environmental protection
Safer Ship Operation
Human errors
Future research on maritime safety
Further Information and Notes to Editors

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