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Friday, April 20, 2018

THE “ERIKA II- PACKAGE” OFFICIALLY TABLED

The European Commission tables a second set of post-Erika proposals focusing on stricter control of maritime traffic, extra compensation for coastal pollution damage and the establishment of a European Maritime Safety Agency.

There is currently an extremely wide range of political activities in and around Brussels in connection with the follow-up to the Erika accident.

Firstly, the European Commission on 6th December officially tabled a second set of post Erika proposals (”Erika II”).  As expected the package focused on three separate proposals:

- Stricter control of maritime traffic

In order to ensure that substandard ships do not escape the controls provided for in the first package of measures, the Commission is proposing to tighten up the monitoring and control arrangements for vessels in transit off European Community's coasts.

Accordingly, a new proposal for a Directive provides for the establishment of a notification system also covering ships not calling at Community ports. It would require ships sailing in Community waters to carry automatic identification systems  (“transponders”) and VDRs ("black boxes").  According to the proposal the latter shall be fitted to all cargo ships above 20.000 dwt. from 2007. (See also our report on IMO discussions regarding VDRs).

Since most accidents occur in extreme weather, under the Directive ships would not be allowed to leave port in such conditions (a proposal added in the aftermath of the “Ievoli Sun”).  INTERTANKO remains sceptical as to how such a system could be implemented and to shifting the decision making on what are safe navigational conditions from the ship to the shore.  

The Directive would also make it compulsory for each Member State to have ports of refuge for vessels in distress. The latter is in fact a break-through for the concept advocated by INTERTANKO for quite some time.

- Extra compensation for coastal pollution damage

As we had good reason to expect, the Commission is now proposing the establishment of a European pollution damage compensation fund (COPE Fund) to provide additional compensation up to a ceiling of EUR 1 billion, for victims where the current ceiling of EUR 200 million is exceeded. The intention of the fund is also to speed up full compensation for victims of oil spills in Community waters. The COPE Fund would be financed by European oil importers. The Commission's proposal also provides for the imposition of financial penalties for negligent behaviour by any person involved in the transport of oil by sea.

- Setting up a European Maritime Safety Agency

The Commission also proposes to establish a European Maritime Safety Agency which shall assist EU Member States with effective and uniform application of various EU rules and regulations. It is proposed that the European Maritime Safety Agency should have a staff limited to 50 and provide the Commission and Member States with support in applying and monitoring compliance, and evaluate the effectiveness of maritime safety measures. The Agency's tasks would include the collection of information and the operation of databases on maritime safety, evaluation and audit of maritime classification societies, and the organisation of inspection visits in the Member States to check the conditions under which Port State control is carried out. It would be able to assist the national inspectors in their control tasks (in particular by enabling the inspectors to better identify vessels posing a risk that should be the subject of tighter controls).

These proposals will now enter the formal EU decision-making procedure along the lines of those that have been applicable to the first Erika package.  Final adoption of the first measures – if not all – can be expected towards the end of 2001.