Maritime safety is everyone’s business

An evaluative mission was carried out in 2004 to optimize the efficiency of international cooperation on maritime safety. It provided a mine of information for 2007-2013 in this domain, essential for transport and the environment.

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Cleaning the Gallician coast after the oil slick caused by the Prestige in 2002. Cleaning the Gallician coast after the oil slick caused by the Prestige in 2002.


In the past it was thought that maritime safety was purely a matter of international politics. The oil slick caused by the wreck of the tanker Erika in December 1999 (when 10,000 tonnes of fuel poured into the ocean along the coast of Brittany) changed this belief, showing that only a partnership of all parties concerned in maritime safety could bring about change. The ecological disaster caused by the Prestige on the Gallician coast in November 2002 reinforced this conviction: think of the role played by fishing boats in cleaning up the oil in the sea and the mobilization of volunteers for cleaning the coast.

Coordinating actions

This partnership-based approach necessitates clarifying the role of each partner (international organization, states, regional collectives, national navies, port authorities etc.), sharing out tasks and establishing a mechanism for coordination. An exact idea of each party’s skills is needed to show how best they can work together and to set the right targets for each. Without such preliminary analysis, risks of two people doing the same job, confusion and dispersal of efforts would prevent significant progress in establishing efficient maritime safety.

This was the brief for the evaluation mission set up by the evaluation committee of the INTERREG IIIB "Espace Atlantique" programme in 2004. It brought together experts on each maritime zone in the European Union (Baltic, North Sea, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Black Sea and islands) as well as specialists in cooperation and representatives of the Directorates General of the European Commission chiefly concerned : regional politics, environment, research, transport.

Perfecting existing techniques

In the intention of optimizing the complementarity between different partners, a number of resources were drawn up: e.g. to make use of the missions of the European Environmental Agency; and to take into account the work and priorities of the various regional conventions (HELCOM, OSPAR1… ) in cases of the fight against pollution.

Particular attention needs to be focused on the constitution of partnerships: it was emphasized that cooperative projects in maritime safety need closer association between the port authorities and the petroleum industry, and that research institutes and university laboratories should be more open to safety professionals.

A “philosophy of action” can be derived: cooperation should focus on preventative and restorative action rather than on the fight against accidental pollution. Also, priority should be given to projects which parallel and complement existing policies while providing a field for experiment and research for new solutions.


The mission gave rise to a list of aspects of cooperation which need to be focused on, relating to maritime safety, during the 2007-2013 programming period for Structural Funds. Eleven structural projects were identified, including: projects specific to a particular zone (e.g. conditions of winter navigation in the Baltic); projects common to all zones (techniques of cleaning beaches and managing waste, reinforcement of applied oceanography); exchanges of experience derived from real situations.

The final report is available in four languages (French, English, Spanish and Portuguese) on the website

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