European Maritime Safety Agency

The European maritime safety agency was established by regulation in 2002.  The purpose of the agency is to provide states and Commissions with technical and scientific assistance to ensure proper application of EU legislation in maritime safety, monitor implementation and evaluate effectiveness.

The agency assists the Commission in producing EU legislation on maritime safety and ship pollution.  It refers to international developments in legislation. It assists the Commission in monitoring the overall functioning of EU state control arrangements by undertaking visits.  It provides the Commission with technical assistance and supports it in tasks under EU law.

It provides the Commission with objective information and data on maritime safety through the collection of records, evaluation of technical data in relation to maritime safety, traffic and pollution.  This assists the Commission in publishing every six months information on refusals of access and assists states in identifying or pursuing ships making unlawful discharges. The agency develops in cooperation with the Commission and states, a common methodology for investigating accidents and analysing existing accident reports.

The agency has certain responsibilities in relation to pollution control.  It supports pollution enforcement by states.  The agency assists states in clean-up operations and action plans.

The agency’s board is made up of representatives of each state of the Commission and professionals in the relevant sectors.  Its staff are employed by the entity itself.  It acts on the basis of a two-thirds majority

Port Safety and Control

An EU directive seeks to improve maritime safety by ensuring safety controls at ports.  The directive applies to ships or crew calling at port or anchorage of a state to engage in ship-port interface.  It does not apply to fishing vessels, warships, naval ancillaries, wooden ships of primitive build, government ships, or non-commercial purposes and treasury yachts.

States must take necessary measures to ensure inspection.  Qualified inspectors must be made available to the competent authority.

There are two categories of inspection.  Priority one ships for which inspection is mandatory and Priority two for which inspection is optional.  In the latter case, a percentage of ships visiting the port must be inspected.

Waiver of a priority one inspection may be permitted if it can be carried out in the next EU port of call or another port within 15 days within the EU.  Exceptional circumstances such as risks to safety may justify inspection not being carried out.

The risk profile applicable to a ship calling at a port or anchorage is determined by parameters such as type and age of the ship, flag, state, compliance with standards by the relevant business, number of deficiencies, and recent detentions.  The competent authority decides on the basis of the risk profile as to whether a ship should be inspected.

There are two types of inspection.

  • the initial inspection in which the authority verifies the presence of the required certificates and documents, the general condition of the ship and compliance with deficiencies previously detected.
  • detailed inspection, if the initial inspection shows that the condition of the ship does not comply with the convention.
  • expanded inspection for high-risk ships or certain passenger ships, bulk carriers, oil carriers or chemical tankers more than 12 years old.

Port Safety and Control II

States may refuse access to ports for ships flying flags on black or grey lists which have been detained or whose operation has been prohibited under directives more than at certain times within a certain period.

States must ensure deficiencies which have been confirmed or revealed during an inspection are rectified.  If they are hazardous to safety, health or the environment the authority must ensure the ship is detained until the matter is rectified.

There is provision for an appeal against the decision of a competent authority.  This does not spend the refusal of access or detention.

Inspectors must meet qualification criteria in order to be approved by a competent authority.  That is a common model for an identity card which inspectors are to carry when undertaking port control.

The Commission publishes and updates an inspection database and a list of companies whose compliance standards are low.

Port Security

A directive provides for security of ships and port infrastructure.  The Directive seeks to provide a common security system in all ports designed to guarantee high level or comparable level of security to EU ports.

States must designate a port security authority for each port.  One may be designated for several ports.  The authority must identify or take required security measures in accordance with the assessment of the port security, needs and plan.

States must ensure that ports develop security plans, maintain and update them.  They must provide a description of the measures to be taken to enhance port security.

The security levels are to correspond with the relevant risk level.

States must accredit a port security officer in each port to act as a contact point for port security issues.  The officer must have the requisite knowledge and authority to coordinate port safety and security plans.

Safe Loading and Unloading

An EU directive provides for common standards and procedures for safe loading and unloading of boat carriers.  They prescribe duties for the master and terminal operator.  They regulate the exchange of information between them.

The directive applies to boat carriers irrespective of their registration calling at a terminal to load or unload solid boat cargo and to all terminals of the state visited by boat carriers within the scope of the directive.  It does not apply to facilities visited by boat carriers in exceptional circumstances.

The directive provides for suitability requirements for boat carriers.  The cargo holds, hatches, openings, lightings, loading instructions, machinery and equipment must comply with the conditions in the directive.  Compliance is monitored by the terminal authority.

Terminals must comply with suitability requirements in respect of loading and unloading equipment, training, assessment of tasks to personnel.  They must appoint representatives responsible for loading and unloading boat carriers at the terminal.  They must provide boat carriers with information manuals containing the requisite information and set up appropriate management systems.

The directive sets out the duties and responsibilities of the carrier at terminals.  It provides for procedures to apply prior to, during and after unloading.

Where operations threaten ship safety, competent authorities may take action.  States may intervene if the terminal representatives and master cannot reach agreement on the action to be taken.  The responsibility rests primarily with them.  States must take measures to monitor the implementation of the directive and submit reports to the commission every three years.

Maritime Safety and Pollution

An EU regulation provides for EU policy for maritime safety.  The regulation simplifies procedures by replacing previous committees with a single committee, the Commission on Safe Seas and Prevention of Pollution from Ships.  It accelerates and simplifies provisions for the incorporation of international rules into EU legislation by allowing amendments to international rules to apply directly.  The committee also reviews existing EU legislation on maritime safety and pollution prevention.

An EU directive provides for a community vessel management monitoring and information system in order to enhance safety and minimise the environmental impact of shipping accidents.

Operators of ships bound for a port in the EU must notify certain information at least 24 hours in advance where this is feasible.

Ships built after 2002 must be fitted with an automatic identification system as well as a voyage data recorder equivalent to a black box to facilitate investigation of accidents. States had until 2007 to ensure that they have appropriate equipment and staff to use these systems and until 2008 to coordinate national systems with those of other states.

Where there is dangerous or polluting goods on ships, the shipper must give a declaration containing the information, including details of the nature of the goods to the master or operator prior to taking the goods on board.  The operator, agent, or a master must notify the information to the competent authority.

States must take appropriate measures in accordance with international law to deal with incidents and accidents at sea.  They must require the parties concerned, including the operator/owner/manager of the dangerous or polluting goods to cooperate fully in order to minimise the consequences of an incident.

The master of the ship must immediately report any incident or accident affecting the safety of the ship which compromises shipping safety generally which may lead to pollution or any slick of polluting materials, containers or packages seen drifting at sea.

Ships may be prevented from leaving or entering port in the event of poor weather conditions.  States may be obliged to establish a place of refuge to recover a ship in distress.

Maritime Traffic

Ships must comply with approved routing systems which cover sensitive areas, areas with high traffic density and areas dangerous for shipping and may be required to must use vessel traffic services.  States with secure facilities must have the requisite human and technical resources,

States must cooperate to ensure interconnection and interoperability of national information services.  States must designate a competent port authority and coastal stations. Notification is required under the directive.

There must be cooperation between the Commission and states in order to maintain and develop European monitoring control and information systems for maritime traffic.  This includes the development of links between coastal stations and authorities.

The European maritime safety agency assists in the improvement of management of shipping information. States must make regular checks on these systems and ensure penalties are in place as a deterrent for failures of compliance.

Share this article