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Mobility and Transport

EU actions on safety and environment protection

Classification Societies

The regulation on rules and standards for ship inspection and survey organisations (Regulation (EC) No 391/2009) improved the system of EU-wide recognition of Classification Societies. Therefore, only highly reliable and professionally competent bodies are allowed, as "recognised organisations", to carry out statutory surveys and certification on behalf of EU Member States. The strategic objective is to ensure high level of quality of the major Classification Societies of the world, which have more than 90% of the world's merchant ships' tonnage in their registers. These organisations produce and apply privately-owned technical standards for ships construction and maintenance, conduct inspections and may be authorised to issue ship certificates on behalf of flag states. The European Commission periodically assesses the organisations based on the quality criteria of the Regulation to indirectly monitor the safety condition of the majority of the ships operating in EU waters.

The common rules and standards for the Member States relationship with ship inspection and survey organisations can be found in Directive 2009/15/EC. In particular, with respect to ships flying its flag, a Member State may authorise an organisation to carry out on its behalf the inspections and surveys related to statutory certificates for compliance with the International Conventions. These duties shall be entrusted only to a recognised organisation which means an organisation recognised at EU level in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 391/2009.

Vessel Traffic Monitoring – Maritime Surveillance

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. To that respect, a notification system for all ships bound for or leaving EU ports has been set up by Directive 2002/59/EC.

Within this Directive the Union Maritime Information and Exchange System, supports not only the vessel traffic monitoring and maritime safety aspects but maritime transport and maritime traffic monitoring and surveillance generally, including trade facilitation aspects.

The Directive also requires each maritime Member State to draw up contingency plans for accommodating ships in distress in Places of Refuge.

Relevant links

Port State Control

Port State Control (PSC) is the inspection of foreign ships in ports in States other than the State of registry for the purpose of verifying that the competency of the crew, the condition of a ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international conventions and that the vessel is manned and operated in compliance with applicable international law.

The EU regime on PSC (Directive 2009/16/EC) has been based on the pre-existing structure of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (PMoU) on PSC where all EU maritime Member States as well as Canada, Russia, Iceland and Norway are members.

PSC inspections vary in frequency depending on the risk the ships pose: the most dangerous ships being inspected most often, while vessels which pass inspection without problems are subject to less frequent inspections. Persistently substandard vessels can be banned from European waters and lists of persistently substandard shipowners are published by the Commission to that respect.

Since 2011 a new inspection regime is in place, applicable both to the EU and the PMoU frameworks. EMSA provides all PMoU members with technical support and operates the THETIS database for reporting the results of the inspections.

Maritime Accident investigation

International law requires that countries affected by an accident at sea investigate the causes and propose ways of preventing recurrences in the future.

The idea underpinning Directive 2009/18/EC governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sectoris to improve maritime safety by providing clear EU guidelines for the harmonisation of technical investigations and lessons learnt after accidents at sea, without determining or assigning any civil or criminal liability.

In line with the Directive, EU Member States should conduct an investigation when lessons can be learned from an accident, when an accident involves a ship flying their flag or happens in their waters and when their significant interests are affected.

For very serious accidents like the loss of a ship, death or severe damage to the environment the Directive provides that there must always be an investigation. For serious accidents such as involving a fire, explosion, collision, or heavy weather damage, an assessment whether or not to undertake a safety investigation should take place.

Member States are obliged to establish an independent investigative body, to provide safety-focused investigation systems as well as to draw up commonly structured investigation reports and to contribute to the European Marine Casualty Information Database (EMCIP).

Insurance for maritime claims

The legal framework applicable to shipowners as regards their insurance for maritime claims (Directive 2009/20/EC) aims to ensure that economic operators act more responsibly and to improve the quality of merchant shipping, at least within EU waters.

These objectives are to be achieved through a mandatory insurance scheme for general maritime claims that is currently lacking at international level, apart from the specialised context of international liability conventions dealing with specific types of damages (e.g. oil pollution from tankers, bunker oil pollution, removal of wrecks). This scheme applies to:

  • ships flying the flag of Member States; and
  • ships not flying the flag of Member States when they enter ports under Member States’ jurisdiction.

With respect to monitoring and compliance, Member States have to enforce the relevant obligations under the Directive both through flag State and port State control and establish a system of effective and proportionate penalties, to be applied in cases of breach and/or non-compliance.

Ship-Source Pollution

Polluting substances such as oily waste, sewage and garbage continue to be discharged into the sea, often illegally. To reverse this trend, the EU has adopted several legislative measures to implement the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (MARPOL convention) and ensure strict enforcement of the measures to reduce the pollution from ships.

Port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues

Directive (EU) 2019/883 establishes a framework ensuring a consistent reduction of marine pollution by requiring Member States to provide adequate waste reception facilities in all ports, including recreational ports and marinas. It also requires that all ships, including fishing vessels and recreational craft, visiting these ports deliver their waste to these facilities before their departure from the port. Garbage can be delivered free of additional direct charges. The same applies to passively fished waste with the aim of preventing that waste accidentally caught in fishing nets is returned into the sea.

Penalties for infringements

Non-compliance with the MARPOL standards (Annexes I and II) is addressed in Directive 2005/35/EC on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for pollution offences, as amended by Directive 2009/123/EC. It provides that any intentional or seriously negligent infringement of those standards, whether in the coastal waters of Member States or on the high seas, shall be effectively dealt with and should even be regarded criminal offences. Effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties provide an additional disincentive for ship operators to illegally discharge into the sea. Moreover, the Directive 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. EMSA assists the Commission and Member States to that end (CleanSeaNet).

Marine equipment

Directive 2014/90/EU harmonises the safety rules relating to marine equipment on board of EU flagged ships through the uniform application of the international instruments. Equipment certified after successful third party testing is allowed to circulate freely within the EU. Directive 2014/90/EU also 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 furthermore 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.

Maritime Safety