April 3, 2008
EC prods member states on maritime directives
The European Commission today acted to prod several European Union member states into bringing national legislation into line with EU directives on various maritime matters. In all cases, the Commission sent the errant states "reasoned opinions." Sending of a reasoned opinion is the final step before lodging a formal complaint with the European Court of Justice.
The Commission acted against Italy for failure to fully transpose into national law and implement a 1995 directive that aims to reduce substandard shipping in EU waters by promoting compliance with international and EU legislation on maritime safety, establishing common criteria for control of ships by the port state and harmonizing procedures on inspection and detention.
Italy has until now failed to transpose and apply a rule calls for the costs of the inspections to be charged to the owner or operator of the ship.
Italy (along with Estonia) also received a reasoned opinion for failure to adopt national legislation on the mutual recognition of seafarers' certificates issued by EU member mtates. Sending a reasoned opinion is the last step before the lodging of a formal complaint to the Court of Justice.
The Commission says Estonia and Italy have failed to fully transpose into national law a 2005 directive that aims to improve the image of European shipping and to attract young people to seafaring. The directive fosters professional mobility of seafarers within the EU, and sets recognition procedures for seafarers' certificates of competency, while ensuring thorough compliance with the requirements of relevant International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions.
Finland received a reasoned opinion relating to restrictions on the freedom to supply services in maritime transportation.
The Commission took issue with Finnish provisions requiring foreign shipowners to have a representative in Finland approved by the customs authorities. This representative is jointly and severally liable with the shipowner for paying fairways duties. These duties are charged for the service of guiding vessels through the fairways, especially through port access and departure channels.
The requirement that foreign shipowners designate a representative in Finland can result in additional costs for such operators and therefore make providing services more difficult for them than for a national operator. The Commission considers this practice to be contrary to the principle of freedom to provide maritime transportation services between Member States and between Member States and third countries.
Spain received a reasoned opinion relating to providing for discriminatory harbor dues in its national legislation.
The Commission has found that harbor dues charged when vessels visit the Canary and Balearic Islands, or Ceuta and Melilla are lower than those levied on traffic between ports on the Spanish mainland and elsewhere in the Community.
Also, dues for vessels sailing between Spanish and third country ports are not subsidized under Spanish legislation and are thus higher than those charged for traffic between Spain and other Member States.
Such forms of discrimination are in principle contrary to the provisions of Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transportation between Member States and between Member States and third countries. They can be justified only on the basis of overriding reasons relating to the public interest.
In this context, Spain claimed the need to defend territorial cohesion. It failed, however, to adduce sufficient evidence to demonstrate that its subsidies are necessary and proportionate, particularly in the light of the compensation already in place for public service obligations for the areas in question.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Slovak Republic received reasoned opinions for failure to transpose into national law the European rules for setting up harmonized river information services on inland waterways. Sending a reasoned opinion is the last step before possibly taking a matter to the Court of Justice.
The aim of the directive involved is to establish a common framework for river information services (RIS) in order to increase the safety, reliability and efficiency of inland waterway transport. The Commission says that "RIS can thus improve the competitiveness of this cheap, economical and environmentally friendly transport mode."
The directive defines the principles and requirements for data communication and RIS equipment as well as the minimum level of RIS services. It provides the outline for technical guidelines and specifications for notices to skippers, electronic chart display and information systems, vessel tracking and tracing systems and electronic ship reporting. It should have been fully transposed into national law by October 20, 2007.