The European Commission announced five legislative proposals on 1 June 2023 to modernise EU rules on maritime safety and prevent water pollution from ships. Although maritime safety in EU waters is currently very high, more than 2,000 marine accidents and incidents are still reported every year.
The new proposals will align EU rules with international regulations, securing a level-playing field for the sector while improving implementation and enforcement through digitalisation and more EU cooperation. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will play a prominent role in the implementation of the new requirements and support Member States to enforce the new rules.
Modernised maritime safety rules
Three out of the five proposals focus on modernising and improving maritime safety rules to reduce incidents and accidents, ultimately preventing loss of human life and environmental pollution.
The package of proposals includes:
· Clear requirements for flag State inspections, based on international rules, as well as specific EMSA trainings to support that Member State authorities to improve maritime safety and reduce the risks of environmental pollution. The proposal facilitates information-sharing between flag States on the results of inspections.
· Port State control will be extended to cover international Conventions on ballast water and sediments and removal of wrecks. The proposal updates the way ships are targeted for inspection and attaches more importance to the environmental related performance and deficiencies of ships to determine their risk profile.
· The scope of Port State and accident investigations will be extended for fishing vessels, with significant safety concerns. Member States can choose to apply port State control for fishing vessels measuring over 24 metres calling at EU ports and can report serious accidents involving fishing vessels less than 15 metres. Flag State and port State control operations will be digitalised.
· National accident investigation bodies will receive further support from EMSA.
Tackling ship-source pollution
The proposals 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.
To achieve this, the proposal:
· aligns EU rules with international regulations and extends the scope to cover a wider range of polluting substances.
· optimises CleanSeaNet - EMSA's surveillance and information sharing database.
· establishes a strengthened legal framework for penalties and their application, enabling national authorities to impose penalties.
The proposal updates EMSA's mandate to better reflect the growing role the Agency plays in many maritime transport areas, including safety, pollution prevention and environmental protection. The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative procedure.