Commission prepares major improvement of technical inspections of ships in European ports
On 1 January 2011, the port state control regime (technical safety inspections in ports) in the European Union will change significantly under EU Directive 2009/16/EC on port state control. Under the new regime there will not only be EU wide harmonisation of port state control inspection standards, there will also be for the first time a fully co-ordinated system of all the port state safety inspections carried out in the EU. The two Regulations adopted on 13 September 2010 by the Commission specify the criteria for assessing the risk profile of ships using the company performance and the flag state performance as appear in "THETIS", an advanced information system which will track every ship calling into EU ports. Eventually, the new Regime will strengthen the EU's ability to push sub-standard ships out of European waters, making it possible to ban any categories of ships, inserting a minimum time limit for a ban and introducing a permanent ban for those ships, which continue to flout the rules.
What are the current rules of shipping inspection?
It is the responsibility of Flag States (country exercising regulatory control over commercial vessel) to certify that vessels satisfy international safety requirements. Currently, 25% of vessels calling at Member State ports are inspected. The purpose is to improve maritime safety in EU waters by attempting to ban substandard ships. Vessels which have already been inspected within the previous six months are exempt.
The exchange of information between Member States is regulated under Directive 95/21 and the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control, an international agreement by means of which the EU shares port state control efforts with Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Slovenia.
2. Why is it important to change the rules of shipping inspections?
Each year, European ports register more than 80,000 individual ship calls. Traffic of dangerous goods (oil, chemicals, harmful materials) and passenger ships is constant. Denying entry or banning sub-standard ships in European ports is still common.
The regime of technical inspections of ships (port state control) is of crucial importance to prevent maritime accidents, the loss of life at sea, pollution caused by ships and maritime working and living conditions. Member States devote significant inspection resources to ensure that those ships respect the relevant standards and can operate safely in all circumstances.
Moreover, the current regime still operates with a "national logic" i.e. the selection of the 25% of ships for inspection is determined by national authorities, making the analysis on a pan European level difficult.
These efforts will increase from January 2011 where the banning provisions will be extended and shipping companies and Flag States will be monitored more exhaustively. The new port state control inspection regime relies on an advanced information system, known as "THETIS", which will be operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
3. What is the European Commission proposing?
Regulation on Company Performance
The new Regulation on company performance provides the methodology to rank shipping companies in function of the number of deficiencies detected in the technical inspections to ships they own. The ranking of the company is a factor determining the frequency of inspections. It is also an indicator of the commitment of the company to safety standards. Companies with good records will benefit of less inspections. Companies presenting higher risks will be subject to very frequent inspections. This ranking will be made public on a website and updated daily.
Regulation on Flag Performance
The flag of a ship (flag of the state with jurisdiction over the ship) is a crucial element for establishing the ship risk profile which determines the priority for inspection in European Union ports. The new Regulation on Flag Performance details the criteria for calculating the risk profile in question. The criteria have been established by the EMSA.
4. What is THETIS?
THETIS is an advanced information system, which will track every ship calling into EU ports as well as the safety record of Flag States, individual shipping companies and other key actors. The system will improve the effectiveness and quality of the visits and inspections carried out by the port State in European ports, while concentrating on the more dubious ships and alleviating the pressure on the high quality ships.
Via THETIS the information will be made available to all port state control authorities that have signed up to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (Paris MoU), an international agreement by means of which the EU shares port state control efforts with Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Slovenia.
THETIS provides full transparency, by making the information available and daily updated on a public website.
5. Facts and figures on maritime accidents in EU waters
- Each year, European ports register more than 80,000 individual ship calls.
- 2009 figures show that the total number of ships involved in accidents (626) and loss of life (52 seafarers) were substantially down in comparison to 2007/2008.
- Although 2009 saw a significant decrease in accidents compared to 2007/2008, largely due to the global economic downturn, the number of vessels involved in accidents was still 17% higher than in 2006.
- Estimate of the amount of oil spilled in reported accidents reduced to 1500-2000 tonnes in comparison with 2000-3000 tonnes in 2008 and 7000-8000 tonnes in 2007
- With respect to accidental pollution, there were three cases where spills of several hundred tonnes were reported, and also several smaller spills
- In terms of country of registry, 66% of the vessels involved in EU waters were registered in EU countries, while around 33% flew non-EU flags.
- 69% of lives lost were on EU managed vessels, down from 77% in 2008.
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