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EU actions on safety and environment protection

The EU approach is that international standards must be rigorously upheld, but unfortunately quite a number of flag States are systematically ignoring or seriously failing to implement and enforce international safety standards. As a result, although maritime safety is traditionally based on the role of flag states, the European Union considered it appropriate to complete the flag state approach by the port state approach where inspections by the states where ports are located are seen by many as the most effective tool to reduce substandard shipping in their waters. With the "Erika" and "Prestige" accidents off the European coasts, shortcomings of the European standards were highlighted. It was then decided to strengthened the existing legislations and complete them with new measures.

The European Union has built its legislation on IMO Resolutions and the work by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control which since 1982 provides the framework to carry out their inspection duties. In 2009, as a part of the 3rd Maritime Safety Package, the European Parliament and Council adopted Directive 2009/16/EC  which ensures that, as of 1 January 2011, the "New Inspection Regime" (NIR) of the Paris MoU applies in all the EU coastal states plus Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation. The NIR is based on an advanced IT information system ("THETIS") managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). It will enable the participating countries to have all merchant ships calling into European ports (more than 70,000 ships movements per year) under continuous control and track the performance of flag states, recognised organisations and individual shipping companies. The NIR will benefit quality shipping, concentrating inspection efforts on risky ships and low performance companies. Good operators will benefit from less frequent inspections.

Classification Societies

Regulation 391/2009/EC , adopted in 2009 improved the system of EU-wide mutual recognition of Classification Societies. Under this Regulation only highly reliable and professionally competent bodies are allowed by the EU, as "recognised organisations", to carry out statutory surveys and certification on behalf of EU Member States. The strategic objective of this Regulation is to ensure high level of quality of the major Classification Societies of the world, which classify and control safety of more than 90% of the world's cargo carrying tonnage. These private companies produce safety standards for ships construction and maintenance, conduct inspections on board ships during their lifetime and issue certificates under International Conventions on behalf of flag states. The European Commission periodically assesses the recognised organisations against the stringent safety-oriented quality criteria of Regulation 391/2009/EC. This allows the EU to indirectly control safety of the majority of the worldwide fleet, even of ships not flying the flag of an EU Member State.

Directive 94/57/EC   adopted in 1994 introduced a system of EU wide mutual recognition of Classification Societies. Under this directive only highly reliable and professionally competent bodies are allowed by the EU as "recognised organisations" to carry out statutory surveys and certification on behalf of EU Member States. This directive has also been amended several times, including by the Erika I package and the Third Maritime Safety Package.

Traffic Monitoring

European seas and coasts combine dense traffic routes with areas of serious danger to shipping. For this reason the EU has taken action to establish within its area a vessel traffic monitoring and information system with a view to enhance the safety and efficiency of maritime traffic, improve the response of authorities to incidents, accidents or potentially dangerous situations at sea, including search and rescue operations and contribute to better prevention and detection of pollution by ships. Directive 2002/59/EC sets up a notification system for all ships bound for or leaving EU ports. The Directive establishes an EU-wide vessel traffic monitoring and information system for receipt, storage and exchange of data on ships' movements, dangerous and polluting cargoes and on accidents and incidents. The Directive also requires each maritime Member State to draw up contingency plans for accommodating ships in distress in places of refuge. This Directive was part of the Erika II package and is being amended by the Third Maritime Safety Package with the aim of further improving vessel traffic monitoring and improving the response of authorities to incidents, accidents or potentially dangerous situations at sea.

Double hull requirements

Regulation 417/2002/EC encouraged the use of environment-friendly tankers in EU waters by setting a timetable for phasing out single-hull oil tankers worldwide. Double-hull tankers offer better protection for the environment in the event of an accident. For this reason, the IMO had decided that all oil tankers built from 1996 on should have a double hull. After the adoption of the Regulation, the EU negotiated for a faster phase-out and secured international acceptance for its position at IMO.

Port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues

Regrettably, despite the entry into force of the MARPOL 73/78 Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, polluting substances continue to be discharged, often illegally. Directive 2000/59/EC aims at ensuring a consistent reduction in marine pollution by requiring provision of adequate waste reception facilities in all EU ports including recreational ports and marinas. The Directive also provides instruments to ensure that all ships, including fishing vessels and recreational craft, visiting these ports deliver their waste in facilities rather that at sea. The Directive is currently being revised (see the ex-post evaluation report).

Ship-Source Pollution

A regime was introduced with Directive 2005/35/EC on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of sanctions for pollution offences, which tackles discharges in all sea areas including the high seas and is enforceable for all ships calling to EU ports irrespective of their flag. It provides for cooperation between port State authorities, which will make it possible for proceedings to be initiated in the next port of call. Furthermore, it aims at enhancing cooperation among Member States to detect illegal discharges and to develop methods to identify a discharge as originating from a particular ship. The European Maritime Safety Agency will assist the Commission and Member States to that end.

Marine equipment

The uniform application of international testing standards and procedures for type-approval of marine equipment is ensured through Directive 96/98/EC . The Directive will be replaced by Directive 2014/90/EU from 18 September 2016. Both Directives aim at guaranteeing the harmonisation of safety rules on board of EU flagged ships through the uniform application of the international instruments relating to equipment. Certified equipment is then allowed to circulate freely within the EU. In addition, Directive 2014/90/EU introduces a simpler system for the transposition of EU legislation, strengthens the requirements for the notification and control of conformity assessment bodies and enhances market surveillance. It also mandates the Commission to carry out a cost-benefit analysis concerning the use of electronic tagging in order to prevent counterfeiting and for market surveillance purposes.