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Mobility and Transport

Maritime Transport Fitness Check


In May 2018 the Commission completed the Maritime Transport Fitness Check of the legislation on flag State responsibilities, accident investigation, port State control, and the vessel traffic monitoring and reporting formalities for ships, which was launched in 2016.



The Fitness Check covers key EU legislation on the above mentioned areas with the objective of assessing their impact and to see whether reinforcement and simplification of the current legislation could improve outcomes. The individual directives were first evaluated separately before their combined effects and coherence were examined in the Fitness Check.

The evaluations for the Fitness Check were divided into the three main aspects related to a State as a flag State, port State or coastal State.


Main conclusions

Overall, the Maritime Fitness Check concluded that the legislative framework all together has contributed to safer, more secure and sustainable maritime transport. Furthermore, EU-led harmonised implementation of international rules and conventions on flag, port and coastal State responsibilities has led to a level playing field in the Union's sector. No need for overturning the legislative framework was found, but rather the necessity for continued support to the Member States in fulfilling the obligations. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), plays a crucial role in this regard, as was confirmed by the evaluations.

The Fitness Check also concluded on the insufficient results on the simplification of reporting formalities and the associated need to revise relevant legislation.

The Staff Working Documents provide more detail on the individual pieces of legislation.


Outcomes and recommendations

The outcome of the Fitness Check confirms that the evaluated EU legislation regulating safety measures at sea is effective, efficient and delivering benefits.

Overall, the distinctive roles of flag States as the first line of defence, port States as the second line of defence and coastal States for traffic monitoring and intervention have their inherent relevance and complement each other. This contributes to achieving the objectives of safe, secure and sustainable maritime transport. The EU legislation mirrors international obligations incumbent on Member States, which are negotiated at the responsible UN body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The added value of EU action lies in the harmonised implementation and enforcement of rules as well as the cooperation of all EU Member States in jointly finding sustainable solutions. This provides for a high and uniform level of safety and a level playing field between Member States.

EMSA’s support to Member States contributes to this high-level of maritime safety and is a key factor in enforcing IMO standards. The evaluations show that this support increases the efficiency and effectiveness of Union-level enforcement.

The reduced number of serious incidents and accidents together with the ability to mitigate their consequences more rapidly has been achieved by combining several measures.

The analysis, however, also highlighted the need for a broader rebalancing of the EU legislative setup to additionally focus on preventive approaches, notably by reinforcing the EU layer for the first line of defence: current policies focus on Member States as port and coastal States, but less so on flag States.

Furthermore, there is room for improvement to achieve complementarity between the VTMIS Directive and the Reporting Formalities Directive for better facilitation of trade. The same could also be explored for the facilitation of transport aspects between the Port State Control and VTMIS Directives by strengthening the interface between SafeSeaNet and THETIS.

The Check also confirmed the enabling potential of digitalisation, with existing EMSA systems such as THETIS and SafeSeaNet reducing the burden on national administrators as well as private operators, facilitating planning and resource allocation in addition to monitoring and enforcement.


This leads to the following overall recommendations:

  • Maintain the EU maritime safety framework and continue to build the capacities of EMSA.
  • Explore ways to better allocate and use resources in partnership with the Member States
  • Promote EMSA’s digital systems and databases, making full use of digital opportunities

While ensuring maritime safety is paramount, the regulatory framework should support conditions under which the European maritime industry can thrive and compete on the global market. This requires integrating new approaches and emerging technologies. Good examples are risk-based approaches supported by EMSA systems, promoting best use, sharing and pooling of technical resources, as well as easing the burden on quality operators.

This pro-active (as opposed to the often applied reactive) approach to safety, security and pollution prevention can support the competitiveness of the sector, while maintaining the focus on enforcement and quality shipping. Together with a simplification of reporting formalities, these measures can make a major contribution to achieving a safe, secure, and sustainable European maritime transport area without barriers.


All documents