The European Commission (EC) has presented five legislative proposals to modernise EU rules on maritime safety and prevent water pollution from ships.
The proposals aim to equip the EU with new tools to support clean and modern shipping.
Three recommendations aimed at enhancing maritime safety regulations are included in the package, with an emphasis on port state control and maritime accident investigations to minimise accident occurrences, protect lives, and avoid environmental damage. The package of proposals includes:
Flag State inspections
Based on international regulations, requirements for flag State inspections have been developed, as well as specific European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) trainings for national administrations to enhance the controls that Member State authorities have over their fleets.
This is expected to improve maritime safety and reduce the risks of environmental pollution, ensuring that “EU flag States continue to stand for high quality shipping services,” according to the EU.
The proposal facilitates information-sharing between flag States on the results of inspections they carry out and compliance issues in general.
Port State Control
Port State control will be extended to cover additional international rules, such as new conventions on ballast water, sediments, and removal of wrecks.
The proposal also updates the way ships are targeted for inspection to reflect new requirements and will attach more importance to the environmentally related performance and deficiencies of ships in determining their risk profile.
Other changes aim to improve Member States’ capacity to detect and correct the lack of compliance pertaining to safety and/or environmental rules and standards.
Tackle ship-source pollution
In order to tackle ship-source pollution, the proposals also aim to prevent any type of illegal discharges into European seas, which is essential to lower the environmental impact of maritime transport activities and preserve the marine ecosystem.
Achieving this requires that illegal discharges are detected, infringements are pursued, and perpetrators of illegal activities are sanctioned.
To ensure this, the proposal aligns EU rules with international regulations and extends the scope to cover a wider range of polluting substances.
The proposal also aims to optimise EMSA’s surveillance and information sharing database, CleanSeaNet.
The enhanced system is expected to facilitate timely enforcement as well as cooperation between Member States in case of cross-border ship-source pollution incidents.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will play a prominent role in the implementation of the new requirements through supporting Member States administration to enforce the new rules.
A separate proposal puts forward changes to EMSA’s mandate and incorporates these new tasks.
National accident investigation bodies will receive further support from EMSA, who will offer a pool of experts of different disciplines upon request, as well as specialised tools and equipment.
However, improvements in maritime safety have not been exclusive to European shores.