August 7, 2003

EC seeks ships for new maritime agency

The European Commission is proposing giving the new European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) "the legal and technical means necessary to operate specialized pollution response ships and equipment for collecting oil and other noxious substances in the sea.

The Commission also proposes widening EMSA's powers to cover maritime security and seafarer's qualifications.

The expanded jurisdiction, says the Commission, would enable EMSA to play a decisive role in the implementation of European legislation in the fields of maritime security and qualifications of seafarers.

ĎIn the aftermath of the Erika and Prestige disasters, maritime safety legislation has been drastically improved to guarantee the highest level of environment protection to European shores and waters. The Commission is determined to ensure that these rules are adequately and strictly applied. The widening of the European Maritime Safety Agency's competence is today a key step in this strategy to ensure safety and security of maritime transport." said the Commission's Vice-President Loyola de Palacio.

The new Commission proposal would:

provide EMSA with the legal competence and the appropriate means to fight accidental and illicit pollution caused by ships by purchasing or leasing vessels equipped with advanced technology or other anti-pollution equipment. Funding for this new task of the Agency has already been set aside in the Annual Policy Strategy for 2004. Euros 20 million has been allocated annually for the period 2004-2006. "The Agency's efforts will supplement those of Member States and add value to the Community framework and Community mechanism for co-operation in the field of marine pollution and civil protection," says the Commission;

widen the objectives of the Agency to include maritime security. This is justified by increased concerns over the threat of terrorism and other illicit actions targeting ships and port installations.The Agency should assist the Commission in its inspections of the effective application of the security measures undertaken by Member States in line with the Commission Communication on enhancing maritime transport security;

enable the Agency to adequately assist the Commission in the field of the recognition of qualifications of third country seafarers in application of Community legislation on the minimum level of training of seafarers.

The European Maritime Safety Agency has been established by the European Parliament and Council Regulation 1406/2002 of 27 June 2002 in the aftermath of the Erika disaster and is provisionally located in Brussels. Its Administrative Board has been set up and its Executive Director, Mr. De Ruiter, nominated early 2003. Auxiliary staff is already in place, while additional staff is currently being recruited.

The main tasks of the Agency are presently:

* the collection of information and operation of data bases on maritime safety,

* the evaluation and auditing of maritime classification societies,

* the organization of inspection visits in the Member States to verify Port State Control conditions. In this connection, it will assist the national inspectors in their control duties (in particular by enabling them to identify more effectively the vessels at risk which should be the subject of tighter controls).

* facilitating the exchange of good practice between Member States and providing technical assistance to the Commission in all areas relating to maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution.

Following its adoption by the Commission, the proposal will be transmitted to the European Parliament and to the Council for discussion and adoption under the co-decision procedure, having regard to the opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee and of the Committee of the Regions.

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