June 26, 2003

Round Table demands EU action on Places of Refuge
The European Council has called for a July 1, 2003 deadline for EU member states to nake contingency plans and take measures to provide Places of Refuge in their respective coastal waters to assist ships in distress. Now the Round Table of International Maritime Associations says it is time for the European Commission and EU Member States to deliver.

The Round Table (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Intercargo and Intertanko) says it wants to remind the European Union and its Member States of their duty to deliver detailed contingency plans and measures for Places of Refuge.

The Round Table says its members have on several occasions, both jointly and individually, "requested the European Union and its politicians to pay urgent attention to this extremely important issue to ensure the safety of crews at sea and protect the environment."

In December, 2002, the Round Table wrote to the EU President, at that time the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on the occasion of a meeting of the European Council in Copenhagen. The letter was then passed on to Mr. George Anomeritis, President of the EU Maritime Transport Ministers' Council, when Greece took over the Presidency of the European Union in January of this year.

The Round Table--representing approximately 90% of the international shipping industry--has duly noted that the European Council has called on EU Members to establish contingency plans for the identification of Places of Refuge for ships in distress not later than July 1, 2003.

In his draft report to the European Parliament on "Improving Safety at Sea in Response to the Prestige Accident (2003/2066 (INI))", dated May 26 and presented June 12, 2003, the EU appointed rapporteur, Dirk Sterckx, MEP, provides a number of vital recommendations on the issue, says the Round Table. Among them, it cites:

"The European Council has called upon Member States to have such Contingency Plans in readiness not later than 1st July, 2003."

"The first priority (for a European Parliament) MUST be to negotiate adequately for arrangement to accommodate vessels in distress and the availability and accessibility of safe havens and harbors."

"The European Parliament insists that each Member State must have at its disposal a clear decision making structure and chain of command for maritime emergencies, together with an independent authority, that in turn has at its disposal the necessary judicial and financial say in taking decisions having binding effect in emergencies within territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone."

Sterckx, in his proposals, makes it clear that "he attaches fundamental importance to having the E.U. Member State implement such plans and arrangement in good time and in full."

"The European Council has called upon Member States to have such Contingency Plans in readiness not later than 1st July, 2003."

"The deadline is imminent," says the Round Table. "It is now time for the EU and its Member States to deliver.

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