January 3, 2001

European Council agrees first EurOPA package
The European Council last month agreed on the first European Community package of measures to improve maritime safety ( the so-called "Erika I" package).

This agreement covers draft directives on Classification Societies and Port State Control and a draft regulation on the gradual banning of single-hull oil tankers.

Proposed amendments to the existing directive on Classification Societies aim to centralize and harmonize the procedure governing the recognition of these societies. They would establish a system for evaluating the societies' performance with regard to the entire world fleet and would apply specific sanctions (suspension or withdrawal of recognition) to deficient societies.

On Port State Control, the proposals agreed by the Council include the banning of substandard ships flying flags of convenience (including the drawing-up of a black list of vessels no longer allowed to enter EU waters).

The agreement also includes the compulsory inspection of all vessels posing a risk entering European waters, including oil tankers over fifteen years old.

These measures are in addition to a target coefficient system whereby vessels are allocated a number of points according to various criteria such as age, flag, previous detentions, etc.

Vessels with the most points must be inspected as a matter of priority. This makes it possible to target vessels posing a risk and reduces the risk of there being different practices from one port to another.

The third proposal is to generalize a ban on single-hull oil tankers according to a timetable similar to that applied by the United States.

According to this timetable, the use of double hulls will be compulsory for most categories of oil tankers in 2010 and for the remaining categories in 2015.

The Council decided to encourage international negotiations within the IMO (International Maritime Organization) which is expected to state its position on similar measures in April 2001. However, if there is no agreement within IMO, the European Community states have committed themselves to adopting European legislation before June 2001.


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