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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

MEETING WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION VICE PRESIDENT LOYOLA DE PALACIO ON 8 FEBRUARY 2002

In connection with European Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio’s visit to Norway last week, former INTERTANKO Chairmen Westye Høegh and Andreas Ugland, other leading industry figures, and senior INTERTANKO staff met informally with the Commissioner assisted by her Deputy head of cabinet and principal maritime policy advisor Mr. Schinas. A number of important issues were discussed during the meeting.

Maritime safety

In an exchange of views on maritime safety, including the EU’s relationship with the IMO, the EU Commissioner expressed satisfaction with the way the two “Erika packages” had been received and dealt with by industry as well as by the wider regulatory community in the IMO. Ms de Palacio repeated what she had said to INTERTANKO Chairman Lars Carlsson last year, when she pointed out that she saw an efficient IMO as the preferred vehicle for improving and maintaining high safety and environmental standards in international shipping. Describing the very fruitful dialogue which had taken place between herself and IMO Secretary General William O’Neil, Ms. de Palacio seemed confident that this positive cooperation would be developed further. She underlined that the main goal for the Commission as well as for the EU countries was to support the IMO by contributing to an efficient and well functioning organisation. In this connection the EU Commissioner also expressed optimism on the likelihood of a positive outcome from both the ongoing negotiations on a third layer for oil spill compensation in the IOPC Fund, and on VDRs (“black boxes”) in the IMO itself.

The exchange also touched upon the desirability and likely implications of increased transparency on class, statutory and PSC data which will follow from the implementation of the two Erika-packages. Ms. de Palacio also agreed that the principal focus should now be on implementation rather than on developing new rules. As far as the Commission’s own priorities were concerned, she highlighted post-September 11th maritime security, recruitment and training of seafarers, and improved competitiveness of the European shipping companies as issues of prime concern.

Maritime environment – MARPOL Annex VI

INTERTANKO took the opportunity to urge the Commissioner to put pressure on EU Member States to ratify MARPOL Annex VI, an issue on which she clearly agreed.

Maritime security

Ms. de Palacio confirmed that both the European Commission and the Spanish presidency of the Council put great emphasis on maritime security. She underlined that not only is this a matter of urgency in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, but also that, for instance, maritime piracy remains a concern. The Commission has established a close dialogue with in particular the US administration on these issues. The various US proposals put forward to this week’s session at the IMO meeting are being studied and the EU’s aim is to lend its support wherever it can. The Commission will be present at a senior level during the IMO discussions, and will shortly thereafter put forward its assessment of what should be done. A proposal for a joint European policy on maritime security will be tabled in time for decisions to be taken in IMO as well as at internal EU meetings to take place in May this year. The Commissioner also took due note of views expressed by industry, notably that the focus on ship board personnel security should not only be on the crew but just as much on all the numerous people boarding the ship from shore. Miscellaneous port visitors and pilots were mentioned as examples.

Seafarers training and recruitment – competitiveness of EU shipping

The Commissioner also gave clear signals that unless external events (such as major accidents) once more interfere with pre-planned agendas, she regarded her maritime safety work as close to completion with the six post-Erika proposals coming to fruition. The Commission now intends to turn its main focus towards the monitoring of ship crew training and quality. In particular the Commission feels a need to put forward proposals for mechanisms or schemes for increased recruitment, training and employment of EU seafarers (mainly as officers). Ms de Palacio is herself clearly of the opinion that such policies must be put in place in order to safeguard and maintain a European based quality shipping community and the full range of maritime competence. From the industry side it was made quite clear to the Commissioner that, while there was total support for measures to develop and maintain maritime competence within the EU, regional restrictions on manning terms and conditions such as those proposed by the Commission in the so-called “Manning of ferries directive” was not the way forward to promote these objectives and quality crews. Emphasis must be on international standards safeguarded through flag state implementation supported by port state control.

As for the future competitiveness of EU based shipping companies, Ms. de Palacio confirmed that the revised state aid guidelines (providing EU Member States with the legal framework for such industry promoting schemes as tonnage tax and alleviation of social and tax burdens on European seafarers) is likely to be adopted by the Commission before the end of the year. The British tonnage tax regime, which also includes elements of recruitment and training of EU (British) seafarers, may well become the model for the future common EU rules.

Port policy

Referring to the Commission’s draft directive on deregulation of port services, the Commissioner expressed great satisfaction with the outcome of the European Parliament’s first reading on this issue. The proposal was largely supported even though pilotage was left out of its scope. The Commissioner said that she now expects fast progress also in the Council where a Common position can be expected already this spring. She did not rule out a final adoption before the end of the year.

Invitation to continued dialogue

The EU Commission Vice President also expressed her satisfaction with the close dialogue which had been established with the tanker industry and which had assisted in identifying appropriate measures to be taken in the aftermath of the Erika accident. Ms. de Palacio underlined that she was looking forward to continuing this working relationship.

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Contact:Peter Swift peter.swift@intertanko.com