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Saturday, November 17, 2018

EMSA’s new Executive Director speaks on Agency’s priorities

The European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Comittee (TRAN) this week invited Mr Markku Mylly, EMSA’s new Executive Director, to discuss the Agency’s priorites for the coming years.

Addressing the Committee, Mylly stressed that he will bring his maritime and managerial experience to EMSA in order to build on the Agency’s good reputation and  improve its visibility viv-à-vis the EU Member States and the global maritime community. In view of the new powers that the Agency has just been awarded,  Mylly suggested that to live up to its new responsibilities, including those in the field of the environment and relations with third countries, will be an interesting and challenging task.

Turning to EMSA’s more concrete priorities he highlighted that EMSA will support  the EU and its Member States in their effort to keep the European maritime sector safe, competitive, sustainable and economically viable. In pursuit of these objectives he said that EMSA will promote maritime employment and ensure a high level of training for European seafarers. Furthermore, he will aim to ensure an efficient dialogue with the Member States and their maritime authorities, with an eye to avoiding unecessary duplications of tasks.

During the following debate, the majority of members welcomed Mylly and commended the long-standing good cooperation between the TRAN Committee and EMSA.

Some Committee members raised the MSC Flaminia incident which has triggered a debate on the appropriateness of European legislation on Places of Refuge. This was not an unexpected move in view of great political interest being shown in this incident at national level since the ship, which caught fire off the British coast on 14 July, was apparently denied help in several EU ports and is now finally being towed towards Germany.

In this context, both Mylly and Committee Chairman Brian Simpson deemed the behaviour of the Member States as “utterly unacceptable”, as a ship in need of assistance should not be left on its own. Simpson recalled that the Prestige accident in 2002 had unfolded in a similar way, and had eventually led to human and environmental hardship. Based on this he suggested that the EU Directive on Vessel Traffic Monitoring, which contains provisions on the accommodation of ships in Places of Refuge, should be reviewed.

The Commission’s representative, assured members that the Commission was currently studying the incident as a matter of priority.  Based on its findings it would come forward with concrete suggestions on how the issue could be addressed.

To recall, the legal foundations for PoR as far as the EU is concerned are laid down in Directive 2009/17/EC of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 2002/59/EC establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring and information system. Article 20a-d puts forward the requirements for a "competent authority" at Member State level to decide about the accommodation of ships in need of assistance in a PoR. This Directive also specifies that the Member States’ competent authority should assist ships if they sail in waters under their jurisdiction. This condition has apparently been at the root of much confusion around the question who might be responsible for the MSC Flaminia.

INTERTANKO is in favour of clear rules on the accommodation of ships in Places of Refuge and will follow further developments closely.

A copy of Directive 2009/17/EC is available here.

Contact: Katharina Stanzel