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April 4,2002

EC moves on passenger safety

The European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to reinforce passenger safety on ships.

Two proposals are aimed at preventing horrific accidents such as the Express Samina incident in 2000. One of these would increasing stability requirements for vessels. The other would reinforcing safety rules to cater for passengers with reduced mobility--particularly on high speed vessels.

The Commission also believes passenger protection should be strengthened through stricter liability rules when accidents do occur. These new proposals, announced in the Commission's new White Paper on Transport, complement a series of rules adopted in the late 1990's following the Estonia accident.In February 1996 in the aftermath of the Estonia disaster in the Baltic Sea, eight European States (Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom) entered into the Stockholm Agreement to introduce specific stability requirements for ro-ro passenger ships

"There are still significant gaps between Member States in passenger ship safety rules," said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President in charge of transport and energy. "Repeated occurrence of ferry accidents like the Express Samina, demonstrate that we need to urgently fill these gaps and ensure consistency between the rules that apply in the European Union, irrespective of the flag of the ship."

The new safety package for passenger ships proposed today by the Commission consists of three parts:

    • Increased ship stability requirements. To improve the capacity of a passenger ship to stay afloat after a serious incident, the Commission proposes harmonized stability requirements for all roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro) passenger vessels operating on international voyages to or from European Union ports. A new proposed directive therefore aims to introduce into European legislation the "Stockholm Agreement rules." These are stricter than international rules, but currently only apply in certain North European States.
    • Strengthened and simplified safety rules for passenger ships. The Commission proposes to amend the existing Directive 98/19 on safety rules for passenger ships to include new safety requirements for high speed ships and for passengers with reduced mobility. It also proposes the introduction of specific stability requirements for ro-ro passenger ships operating on domestic voyages in Member States, equivalent to those proposed for ships operating on international voyages. For existing ships, the proposal foresees either upgrading vessels to meet the newcriteria or phasing them out when they reach the age of 30.
    • Better protection of passengers in case of accident. The Commission calls for compulsory insurance for carriers and strict liability up to Euros 250,000 per passenger. If the carrier is at fault unlimited liability should apply. The Commission will make a legal proposal later this year, once ongoing international discussions on the subject are completed.
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