Whilst many flag States and owners are meeting their international obligations, their efforts are constantly undermined by those who do not play the game according to the rules. When operators break the rules on safety and environmental protection, they put crews and the environment at risk and in addition benefit from unfair competition.
EU action in the field of maritime safety and protection of the environment generates significant added value to the international framework as looked after by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The transposition of IMO rules into the EU legal system ensures their enforcement across the entire EU. In addition, the EU plays an important role in improving international standards by initiating and contributing directly to their adoption at international level.
Shipping is of strategic importance to the EU economy: two billion tonnes of cargo are loaded and unloaded in EU ports every year while every year one billion tonnes of oil transits through EU ports and EU waters. This is why– the EU is constantly developing and intensifying its maritime safety policy which the aim eradicating substandard shipping, essentially through a convergent application of internationally agreed rules.
The "Erika" and the "Prestige" accidents encouraged the EU to drastically reform its existing regime and to adopt new rules and standards for preventing accidents at sea, in particular those involving oil tankers. The EU considerably reinforced its legislative arsenal to combat flags of convenience and give Europe better protection against the risks of accidental oil spills. With the Third Maritime Safety Package adopted in 2009, the EU has completed this legislative arsenal covering all chain of responsibility of the maritime sector.