November 7, 2002

European Parliament votes for tougher ferry rules

Loyola de Palacio, European Commission vice-president in charge of transport and energy, today expressed "great satisfaction" after the European Parliament voted in favor of a measure aimed at increasing the safety of passenger vessels, particularly ferries.

"This is a great step ahead which completes ideally the various proposals we have already made in the last years to improve maritime safety" said de Palacio. "Our proposals aim at preventing horrific accidents such as the Express Samina's in 2000: they strengthen the safety requirements and extend specific stability standards all over Europe, which means that our citizens will benefit from the same high safety levels everywhere in the European Union, irrespective of the flag of the ship.

The proposals were made on March 2002. They could now be definitively adopted in December.

The package proposed by the Commission in March 2002 consisted of three parts :

Increased ship stability requirements. To improve the capacity of a passenger ship to stay afloat after a serious incident, the Commission proposed harmonized stability requirements for all roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro) passenger vessels ("ferries") operating on international voyages to or from European Union ports. The new proposed directive therefore aims to introduce into European legislation the "Stockholm Agreement rules", which are stricter than international rules, but currently only apply in certain North European States. According to these new rules, all existing ro-ro ships will henceforth have to comply to these increased standards by 1st October 2015. The European Commission would have preferred the deadline to be 2010 but accepted an amendment that extends the deadline for those ferries which comply already with international stability standards.

Strengthened and simplified safety rules for passenger ships. The Commission proposed amending its existing directive on safety rules for passenger ships to include new safety requirements for high-speed ships and for passengers with reduced mobility. The proposal also introduces 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.

Better protection of passengers in case of accident. In presenting its two legislative proposals, the Commission also expressed its views on carrier liability. Those concerns have been met with IMO's adoption of revisions to the Athens Convention. The Commission will now make proposals to ensure the implementation of the new convention within the Community as soon as possible.

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