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Procedure : 2010/0303(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0372/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0372/2011

Debates :

PV 14/12/2011 - 15
CRE 14/12/2011 - 15

Votes :

PV 15/12/2011 - 9.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Debates
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

15. European Maritime Safety Agency (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Knut Fleckenstein, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (COM (2010) 0611 - C7-0343/2010 - 2010/0303 (COD)) (A7-0372/2011).

 
  
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  Knut Fleckenstein, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by offering my sincere thanks to the shadow rapporteurs for their very open, excellent collaboration. It was not too difficult in this case, as we are all convinced of the good and very efficient work that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has done in the last few years. There quickly emerged a relatively homogeneous picture of what we envisage the future work of this agency to be. We also all agreed that any kind of extension of competences must either have European added value or generate clear synergy effects in the Member States.

Allow me to mention just a few aspects. On 20 April 2010, we experienced the worst oil disaster in human history in the Gulf of Mexico. On 10 August 2011, there was the oil spill at the Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea. The report on oil pollution by the Oslo-Paris Commission reveals that, in 2008, there were more than 500 oil spills at oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. It was therefore right for the Directorate-General for Energy to table a legislative package in this regard to improve the regulation of oil platforms. This includes an independent third party who is to monitor the safety of the oil platforms. Together, we should open the door for EMSA here. What European body could perform this supervisory role better?

I know that EMSA does not currently have the relevant expertise. However, that is a weak argument. There are large overlaps with the areas in which EMSA currently works, and it is considerably more efficient these days to extend the available resources rather than to create entirely new ones.

If the Member States now say that they are prepared to extend EMSA’s mandate and state that EMSA is now not only responsible for shipping accidents, but is also to perform the clear up following oil spills caused by drilling rigs, this will perhaps reveal a modicum of common sense, but it will certainly not be a major breakthrough. The European Parliament must focus on preventive measures. Merely cleaning up after the event is not enough. Commissioner Oettinger said that numerous facts about accidents confirm that prevention is better than trying to put things right afterwards. This statement is perhaps not particularly helpful, but it is right nevertheless.

I would like to address two more points that also seem to me to be important. We need European maritime transport without borders. We have already had many debates on this subject, but there is still too little being done and too slowly for us to achieve this objective. With the help of EMSA and its recording capabilities, we can also make progress in this area.

My next point is that we all know how important it is to support maritime occupations in the European Union. We cannot and do not under any circumstances want to win the competition for the lowest personnel costs and the reduction of social standards. However, when it comes to the quality of the training and further training of the seafarers, then we can play a leading role, and EMSA can and must contribute its knowledge and expertise in this regard.

In committee, the report received the support of a large majority. It is intended to make it clear that Parliament takes its proposals seriously. I am confident as regards the negotiations with the Council. However, this presupposes a serious readiness to negotiate. That is what I am asking for.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Madam President, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Fleckenstein, and the shadow rapporteurs for their work regarding the preparation of the Parliament’s position on our proposal to reinforce the European Maritime Safety Agency. In general, the Commission is very grateful for the continuous support by the Parliament to EMSA.

The Parliament and Council adopted the EMSA Founding Regulation in June 2002. Over the years, EMSA has evolved into an operational agency supporting both the Commission and the Member States. EMSA is highly respected by its stakeholders for its professionalism and quality output.

EMSA’s core business will remain maritime safety. EMSA also contributes to maritime security and to environmental aspects of shipping. The most operational forms are the network of pollution response vessels, the satellite tracking of illegal discharges by ships and the different systems to monitor maritime traffic.

EMSA’s technical expertise is interesting for other policy areas. Therefore, the Commission has made a proposal to extend EMSA’s mandate with regard to certain aspects for which we feel more EU added value is possible. The rapporteur and the Committee on Transport and Tourism have expressed their support for this approach and have indicated three priorities.

The first priority is establishing the European Maritime Space without barriers. I fully share this objective. We have an internal market. A truck goes from Tallinn to Lisbon without any barriers. A vessel, however, is considered to be on an international voyage and is required to fulfil the same formalities as if she were coming from Asia or America. EMSA is able to assist us in realising the European Maritime Space without barriers. The Blue Belt project is an important milestone. It aims at enhancing Short Sea Shipping in the EU by monitoring and recording the route of each individual vessel and thus supporting customs requirements.

The second priority is promoting maritime professions in the EU. Again, I fully share this objective and I am committed to developing a social maritime agenda. I see a role for EMSA supporting us in reaching this objective. Not only does EMSA know a lot about training and qualification systems in Member States and third countries, but EMSA has already developed an information system. However, EMSA itself should neither become a maritime academy nor deliver certificates to seafarers.

The third priority is improving the safety of offshore installations in the EU. In the wake of the tragic accident involving the Deepwater Horizon offshore installation in the Gulf of Mexico, like many Member States, the EU, through EMSA, provided specialised equipment to the United States. Some weeks ago, the Commission, at the initiative of my colleague, Mr Oettinger, presented a legislative proposal to enhance the safety of offshore installations in the EU. The Commission’s objective is to establish high safety standards across the EU.

The proposal we are discussing today already foresees that EMSA’s pollution response capabilities ought to be made available in case of pollution caused by offshore installations. I know that the Parliament wants to go further in a couple of amendments giving EMSA a role in the prevention of pollution by offshore installations, in the licensing process and in third-party oversight. However, EMSA has no expertise in drilling and well operations. Therefore, the Commission would like EMSA to remain a maritime transport agency.

Following your planned vote, I would consider that it should not be difficult for Parliament and the Council to reach an agreement on the current EMSA proposal. There are areas in which it is more efficient to improve coordination and cooperation through EMSA. Conversely, the EU – including EMSA – will, and should, stay out of areas which are better served by national, regional or local authorities.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the support of Parliament, and I am looking forward to reaching an agreement soon on EMSA’s new mandate.

 
  
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  Bart Staes, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it all has to do with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico; indeed, the Committee on the Environment used that disaster and crisis last November to force the Commission to come up with a complete overview of the measures which need to be taken. These measures range from better monitoring of oil drilling installations to new legislation on environmental liability.

In that sense, the proposal on the revision of the regulation on the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has come at a particularly opportune moment. I think that we in the Committee on the Environment – the rapporteur has taken on board very many matters that we raised, and I thank him for that – and the European Parliament have adopted a very good position.

I believe we are asking for a number of very specific things: on the one hand, that EMSA should offer cost-efficient measures for eliminating oil pollution, including from oil drilling installations, and that CleanSeaNet and satellite navigation should be put to better use. Nothing comes for free, and we therefore all know that if we give EMSA new responsibilities, we will probably also have to increase its budget slightly in order to pay for them.

I think that this all comes to the fore in Mr Fleckenstein’s report, and I also hope that the negotiations between Parliament and the Council will come to a positive conclusion and that, together with the Commissioner, we will be able to ensure that combating oil spills at sea is improved, not only as far as ships are concerned, but also with regard to oil drilling installations.

 
  
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  Luis de Grandes Pascual, on behalf of the PPE Group.(ES) Madam President, Commissioner Kallas, I would like to begin by saying that if this issue has seemed easy, if it is reaching a successful conclusion, it is due in great part to the dedicated, rigorous and flexible position of the rapporteur, Mr Fleckenstein. I would like to thank him, on behalf of my group, for being flexible enough to accept our points of view and getting us to the point where we almost have a consensus.

Ladies and gentlemen, the history of the European Maritime Safety Agency is a success story. Day after day, it justifies its existence and the reason for its existence. The amendment to the regulation establishing EMSA does not seek to rectify errors; on the contrary, it aims to extend the agency’s competences in the light of new challenges and the emergence of new problems, and we believe that EMSA is the appropriate instrument for tackling and resolving those problems.

Parliament wants to make sure that EMSA does not turn into a body with a life of its own, but continues to be guided by the Commission and continues to intervene at the request of the Commission itself or the Member States. The serious accident in the Gulf of Mexico has shown us that EMSA should be entrusted with helping the states to investigate accidents involving maritime, coastal or offshore installations.

On a separate note, it is important to emphasise EMSA’s role in supporting the monitoring of the organisations recognised as classification societies, particularly as regards ensuring mutual recognition.

It should be noted that the agency plays a key role in Port State Control and the fight against piracy. For the first time, the report makes explicit reference to the agency’s work involving the satellite-based monitoring of fishing vessels and ships fishing in dangerous waters, for example, through its close collaboration with Operation Atalanta. It is vital to comply with the environmental strategy and support EMSA assistance when necessary.

As regards the composition of the Administrative Board, I believe that there should be a gender balance and that this should be stated in a recital. I think that it would be excessive to introduce it in an article. I also believe that it would be feasible to promote maritime training and exchanges of good practices among institutions and schools. We will not support the European network of training academies as each Member State has its own special characteristics and needs.

Finally, Madam President, regretfully we have to vote against Amendments 18 and 41 because the aim is to exclude the word ‘national’. That is something that is neither ingenuous nor innocent. No one and no state, especially in these times when we are giving up sovereignty in return for economic efficiency, is prepared to accept that the word ‘national’, the existence of the states, should not be compatible, as indeed it should, with the existence of the Union of 27, soon to be 28.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui, on behalf of the S&D Group.(NL) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Fleckenstein, for an excellent report and for the way in which he has managed to assemble a broad majority in favour of his points of view. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is one of the agencies that is not so well known to the public, but which does outstanding work, primarily in the area of maritime safety and in limiting maritime pollution, including oil pollution from seafaring vessels.

The time has now come to introduce new steps in the Community’s management of European waters. The aim must be to arrive at a European area for maritime transport, namely, by significantly reducing administrative formalities for intra-Community traffic, and the agency can, of course, play an important role in achieving that, including on the basis of the Blue Belt pilot project.

However, additional tasks should also be entrusted to the agency in the area of safety – a matter that has already been referred to several times – such as monitoring of pollution management by oil installations. The experience of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico reveals the enormous extent of the potential negative effects of such pollution. EMSA should not only be responsible for incident resolution, but should also play a crucial role with regard to prevention and coordination. I think we have to convince the Member States, and apparently the Commission too, about that.

I am not saying that everything should be dealt with by EMSA alone, but I think we should also carefully examine how things might be coordinated better in the area of prevention. There is no need for us to reinvent the wheel. An agency already exists. Let us allow that agency to assume those tasks.

Reference has also been made to the importance of agreements with third countries. There, too, a role must be reserved for the agency. Finally, I wish to deal with two other matters. Firstly, we need to make jobs in the maritime shipping sector more attractive. This is genuinely a big challenge. The social aspect is something that has to be worked out. Then there is the need to combat piracy, a matter which my colleague has already raised. EMSA can play a role in that area, too, by organising the exchange of data and by informing security agencies of the position of our ships.

For all these reasons, ladies and gentlemen, we fully support the report by Mr Fleckenstein and wish him much success in the negotiations with the Council.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, it is true that the headlines about European integration are being overtaken by the agreements reached at the weekend summit. However, it is also true that Europe is built on reports such as the one we are approving today on the European Maritime Safety Agency.

EMSA was born of the crises generated by the Erika and Prestige disasters. It is a response to problems of European significance, such as the environmental disasters caused by these types of maritime accidents and the risks they pose to people’s lives and wellbeing.

The agency, with its extended competences, will now help to coordinate and integrate the efforts and resources at European and national level, thereby allowing more efficient use of the available resources, and preventing duplication and dysfunctions. That is the first step in combating the deficit.

I am sorry that the opposition of the large groups has prevented the regional perspective from being included, too, as resources are also employed at that level to prevent and respond to these types of incidents, as we saw during the Prestige disaster, when the Basque fishing fleet, for example, cleaned up hundreds of tonnes of oil.

The Committee on Transport and Tourism decided that the agency’s competences should, in future, extend to any incidents involving oil or gas platforms, but we have heard the Commissioner’s position on that.

Finally, the report ensures that resources such as satellite-based vessel monitoring can also be used for the agency’s own purposes, for safety and maritime traffic operations and, specifically, in the fight against piracy.

Unfortunately, it does not incorporate the amendments aimed at introducing gender balance criteria for the composition of the agency’s governing bodies, thereby contradicting the declarations of this Parliament.

The new EMSA encompasses strong support for better training for professionals working in this sector, although the idea of setting up a European school of excellence or a network to harmonise training at European level was rejected. The report also favours the systematic application of innovation in the sector.

For all of these reasons, I believe that we should congratulate Mr Fleckenstein and express our thanks for the support for this initiative. EMSA builds Europe, too, because it demonstrates that the actions of its institutions benefit the citizens.

 
  
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  Keith Taylor, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Green Group to thank Mr Fleckenstein and other political shadows for the very positive way in which this report developed.

There was much to agree on and little to dispute, and that was because we believe that EMSA is doing a very good job. I was particularly pleased to see three elements in this report. The first was an increased role for the European Maritime Safety Agency in the monitoring of offshore oil and gas installations; the second, increased preparedness to provide a response to maritime accidents; and the third, an increase in partnership working to deliver maritime surveillance, including the SafeSeaNet programme, hopefully linking up with some of the policies recently approved in our integrated maritime policy.

I did attend an EMSA conference in their new centre in Lisbon, and I must say I was very impressed with the breadth of their operations and their commitment to delivering safety on the sea.

I commend this report to you and thank Mr Fleckenstein.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen, on behalf of the ECR Group.(NL) Madam President, I first wish to thank Mr Fleckenstein for his work and pleasant cooperation and I would also like to thank the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) itself. I think that EMSA is one of the better European agencies. EMSA is able, using satellite systems, to detect oil spillages, and its satellite data can also be used to combat piracy. These are all aspects which are good for security at sea.

However, Madam President, I believe that Europe is going too far in reviewing this EMSA mandate. In the proposals, EMSA is given more tasks and powers than is necessary. Look, for example, at the tasks EMSA is acquiring to promote the internal market at sea or to go busying itself with inland waterways. These are tasks which I say should remain outside of EMSA.

They are already performed perfectly well by a number of national and international organisations. EMSA does not need to duplicate or take over that work. This also applies to the inspection of oil and gas drilling platforms. I do not think it is necessary for EMSA to do that. Those platforms are already monitored from European countries and I am personally very familiar with the monitoring that takes place. I have worked closely with the inspection service and I know that the monitoring of gas and oil platforms generally works well.

The Fleckenstein report also opens the door to a European coastguard service. Madam President, my group is not holding its breath, not only because that work is already being done in an excellent manner by the national coastguards, but also because – as many people forget – the national coastguards already cooperate very well with each other. They also work efficiently, and this further step need not, as far as my group is concerned, be put into effect.

In brief, we must sometimes say that enough is enough. In this Parliament, we constantly want more tasks and more powers. This is now going a step too far for us Despite the rapporteur’s good work, we are unfortunately unable to support this report.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas, on behalf on the EFD Group. (LT) Madam President, recent events have highlighted the risks posed by offshore oil and gas exploration and production activities to maritime transport and the marine environment, and the European Maritime Safety Agency therefore plays an important role in this area, ensuring an effective level of maritime safety and prevention of pollution by ships.

The agency should act in the interest of the Union. This also includes the fact that the agency may act outside the territory of the EU in its areas of competence, applying the European Union’s maritime safety policy on the basis of scientific and technical cooperation with third countries. The tasks of the enlarged agency must be described clearly and precisely in order to avoid duplication and any confusion.

I believe that it is necessary to ensure a high, uniform and efficient level of maritime safety and security, using existing capabilities for assistance, preventing marine pollution and tackling it in a timely manner, and developing a European maritime space without barriers.

 
  
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  Werner Kuhn (PPE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Fleckenstein, I would like to express my sincere thanks for your excellent coordination. Coordination is always very important, particularly when it concerns the European Maritime Safety Agency. People are very quick to criticise these agencies. We heard that a moment ago from Mr van Dalen. However, I believe that we really should say thank you in this regard, including to the staff of EMSA. They have done an excellent job.

We heard very clearly once again this morning in the debate on security and defence policy what potential we have in Europe if we work together in a sensible way. That is something that we could prove in particular in the areas of maritime safety and a European maritime transport area. I only need to mention coordination in the event of collisions in our territorial waters. It is absolutely crucial that EMSA also receives excellent cooperation from the Member States when it comes to towing capacity, oil spill clean-up vessels, control ships and control aircraft, identifying environmental polluters, recording the data in SafeSeaNet and actually carrying out key tasks very efficiently.

The discussion regarding a unified coast guard is, of course, an excellent one if it is a question of saying that we are, in principle, shifting more and more tasks in the direction of the European Union. However, if we look at the situation in the Member States as a whole, then we have to note that control work is sometimes carried out three or four times over. Here we have the national police service, which, in principle, provides border protection. Then we have customs, which also carries out its tasks independently. Then there is fisheries surveillance and, finally, the waterway police. Sensible coordination of these things has the potential to yield enormous savings, which we ought to make use of.

A satellite maritime navigation system was mentioned. It is particularly important for us to equip the very busy routes with this sort of maritime safety navigation system via Galileo. I am thinking of the Bosphorus, Gibraltar and the Kadet Trench.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR), Blue-card question. (NL) Madam President, let us make sure we understand each other properly, Mr Kuhn. You were saying that it is easy to criticise the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). It may not have come across well in the way I communicated it or in the interpreting, but I have no criticism of EMSA. On the contrary, I correctly expressed my appreciation for EMSA in the second sentence of my contribution. However, my group and I consider that the mandate we are currently reviewing is excessive and is going too far. So please take note: appreciation for EMSA, but we are now going a step too far. I say this just so as to be accurate.

 
  
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  Werner Kuhn (PPE), Blue-card answer. (DE) I think that was more of a statement than a question. I am sure we are agreed on this point, Mr van Dalen. In specific terms, it is about monitoring oil and gas platforms, as you said, but against the background of the fact that, globally, we have just faced a scenario with Deepwater Horizon that has simply resulted in our need to monitor these activities to a greater degree with a view to prevention, too. It is therefore necessary for EMSA to assume this task.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D). (PL) Madam President, I first wish to add my voice to all those warmly praising the rapporteur. Mr Fleckenstein has done a really good job.

If I may, I should like to move directly on to the regulation. From the regulation in question, and the debate, we know that the European Maritime Safety Agency has been in operation for eight years. This agency is put to the test every day in practice, since it organises inspections at sea and prevents pollution of different kinds. Among the positive aspects of the agency’s work which we have not yet discussed are its monthly newsletters, which have a readership of more than 2 000. One can therefore say that the overall assessment of the agency’s work is definitely positive. I would nevertheless like to draw attention to two factors. The first problem relates to the fact that the agency is currently primarily concerned with maritime transport. I believe, however, that the various risks relating to oil and gas extraction in increasingly difficult conditions demand more serious discussion. The second problem is the fact that the regulation extends the work of this agency, adding 14 new areas of activity. It is quite unclear to me whether new and additional resources will be found for these new tasks in coming years and financial perspectives.

 
  
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  Jacqueline Foster (ECR). – Madam President, the European Maritime Safety Agency, which was set up in the wake of the Erika oil tanker incident, carries out an important role in pollution response and should be commended for its work in this area, which was emphasised by my good colleague, Peter van Dalen.

However, this latest modification of the EMSA regulation extends that competence. This may seem harmless and even beneficial for Member States, but the ‘S’ in EMSA stands for ‘Safety’ and this must not be forgotten. This is not a social services agency. I am particularly concerned about extending EMSA’s competence to include the analysis of the safety of mobile off-shore and gas installations. Oil and gas installations are currently regulated to a very high international standard and duplication is not needed. The same applies to the fight against piracy, the training of seafarers and the certification of ships. There, I agree with the Commission’s position. I also do not support the creation of a European coastguard. We have seen competency creep before, and I would not want to see it here.

In conclusion, increased competency means increased costs, and in these difficult economic times, any calls for increases in funding must be supported by rigorous justification. I am afraid I do not see ample justification here.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE). (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, in the first place, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for the proposal for an amendment to the regulation of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), in particular, in regard to the extension of its powers. EMSA, which provides support and technical assistance in matters of safety as well as maritime protection against pollution caused by ships, has been growing in importance in the defence of the marine environment. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the quality of the work that I have had the opportunity to see in person on my visits to this agency.

I am pleased that this report will strengthen aspects for which I have fought in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), and which have now been approved in plenary through the Ford report. These are mechanisms of prevention and response in the event of environmental disasters associated with maritime oil and gas rigs. In times of economic and financial crisis such as we are now experiencing, and in view of economies of scale, it makes complete sense to make use of existing infrastructure and to broaden the agency’s powers rather than to create new structures or a new agency.

I would emphasise the need for coordination at EU level, as well as with neighbouring countries, in order to ensure better practice and to harmonise the different approaches used in the different regions of the EU, whether this relates to accident prevention or response coordination. Only a comprehensive approach will allow us to achieve greater security in activities in the oil and gas sector and to tackle environmental, economic and social damage caused by accidents at sea.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE). (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, let me begin by thanking the rapporteur for the work done, and stress my support for the strengthening of capacities for the prevention of, response to and combating of marine pollution, particularly on oil and gas rigs. As mentioned in the report, in order for this strengthening to be effective, it should be accompanied, where necessary, by appropriate financial and staff resources. The sea and its resources are a global asset, so solutions should be coordinated with the involvement of all stakeholders.

Cooperation with third countries and the application of already existing innovative services, in particular, by using the potential of the EGNOS and Galileo programmes, should be stimulated to create a real border-free European maritime area. As sea routes are a key tool for consolidating this space, I would call for more attention to be given to maritime transport, and that priority be given to removing the various obstacles that it faces on a daily basis.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE). (PL) Madam President, to begin with, I, too, would like to congratulate the rapporteur and thank him for the great effort put into drawing up this report. Above all, I wish to stress that I greatly appreciate the activities of EMSA in matters relating to safety and environmental protection at sea. I also consider it necessary to regulate the tasks currently performed by EMSA and to define the areas it might deal with in future, as mentioned by the previous speakers. I believe that the definition of the agency’s tasks and organisational framework should be conducive to its substantive involvement in emerging new issues in the maritime sector. I also think that clarification of EMSA’s tasks requires technical assistance from international organisations such as the IMO.

 
  
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  Estelle Grelier (S&D).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, I welcome the strengthening of the mandate for the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) as proposed in this report, and I would like to support this great need to deepen integration of maritime safety by giving the example of transnational cooperation in the English Channel, which is in decline.

After 10 years of Franco-British cofinancing of an emergency tow vessel, the UK Government has now decided to stop funding the vessel as part of its cutbacks, thereby reducing the safety of that sea crossing, one of the busiest in the world, which is being hit hard by the impact of privatising these services and the lack of a shared vision.

It is therefore vital that the national authorities responsible for transposing this legislation – primarily the national coastguard services – act in unison in order to guarantee the efficiency and durability of transnational actions. I therefore believe it is of utmost importance for EMSA to show concern for safety in the English Channel and coordinate the action taken by Member States in that area.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the European Maritime Safety Agency has already demonstrated that certain tasks, such as satellite monitoring systems, can be carried out more efficiently at European level. In order to develop innovative applications and services, improve existing applications and services, and create a border-free European maritime area, the agency should tap the potential offered by the EGNOS, GALILEO and GMES programmes. With a view to achieving the single market in the EU, short-distance maritime transport should be used more, and we should use the Blue Belt project to reduce the administrative burden on maritime transport.

The agency should also assist the Commission and Member States in developing and implementing the EU’s ‘e-maritime’ initiative, which is designed to improve the efficiency of the maritime sector through better use of information technologies. In line with its remit, the agency should also intervene outside its territory by promoting the EU’s maritime safety policy by means of cooperation through research.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D). (LT) Madam President, firstly, I would also like to thank my colleague, Knut Fleckenstein, for the great job he has done, because the tasks and role of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) are huge. We must seek to ensure that the revised regulation improves and enhances the agency’s work even more and ensures appropriate solutions for its tasks and challenges and a more effective provision of advice and technical and scientific assistance to Member States and the Commission. The proposed regulation properly indicates the agency’s tasks and role and ensures greater clarity as to its activities. To ensure that its activities and tasks are properly accomplished, appropriate powers and material resources are essential. We also have to guarantee that the agency is able to develop technical cooperation more easily and effectively with third countries that have common maritime borders. To avoid EMSA’s work being duplicated by other institutions, the agency must have a very clear strategy, must enjoy our clear political support, and must also guarantee greater added value throughout the European Union.

 
  
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  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on including a fundamental idea in the scope of the European Maritime Safety Agency’s activity, namely, the fight against piracy, as it has data and tools at its disposal and can thus help to protect vessels flying European Union flags.

Operation Atalanta is only active along the coast of Somalia, not Kenya or the rest of the Horn of Africa. The Foreign Affairs Council has extended Operation Atalanta to 2014 and we have seen how, as a result of vessel monitoring, there have been fewer attacks, although they do continue, which is why we need the Commission, the Council and the Member States to step up their actions. However, as this agency depends on the Commission, we are calling on the Commission to launch a harmonised, horizontal action, with the appropriate funding, to provide greater protection for European Union vessels, especially fishing vessels. This will enable us to ensure more Europe.

 
  
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  Gesine Meissner (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, last year, when I drew up the report on integrated maritime policy, the accident in the Gulf of Mexico had just happened. At that time, we were already considering what we could do in order to be able to intervene better in such cases and how we could also implement some form of preventive measures. At the time, we came up with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). I would therefore also like to offer my sincere thanks to Mr Fleckenstein for his excellent work. It really is important for us to look at what institutions we have and to consider how we can involve them further and in different ways.

The sea is, in general, being used more, and, in future, it will be used significantly more still, because it also contains raw materials. It is important not only for shipping, but also for energy production. In this regard, however, it is important to consider how we can protect the sea. If we have an institution that is perfectly capable of doing this with additional powers, then we ought to instruct it to do so.

It will obviously need funds for this, but that is why it was right for us to say to the Commission during the budget debate when it wanted to cut back on the funding for the agencies that that was not on. We already knew, with regard to EMSA in particular, that we would be giving it an additional task.

This is therefore an excellent report. We ought to give Mr Fleckenstein the negotiating mandate soon.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE).(GA) Madam President, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is viewed as an effective organisation and Europe’s Member States are saving money as a result of its work. EMSA has a central role in relation to reducing maritime accidents and marine pollution and, of course, the loss of human life at sea.

I would support the delegation of more powers to strengthen and improve EMSA. For example, the recently adopted report on the integrated marine policy calls on the Commission to extend the responsibilities to safety inspections and offshore installations.

As Chairman of Parliament’s delegation to the EEA and EFTA, I welcome the fact that Norway and Iceland are active members of the European Maritime Safety Agency. I fully support the proposal to provide EMSA with greater scope to assist neighbouring countries because we should remember that search and rescue knows no political or geographical boundaries.

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, I believe that EMSA should continue to exist and that its basic mission, to control safety at sea and protect human life at sea and the environment, should be extended. Having read the report, it seems to me that it goes into issues and overlaps with other issues, such as piracy or the common coastguard, which may in fact change the very nature of EMSA. I should like to take this opportunity to point out that there are numerous fields in which EMSA provides scientific support and makes a decisive contribution; this applies to maritime pollution, not only by ships, but also by shore industries and fish farms. It can also help to prevent accidents and protect human life at sea.

I should like to close with the following fact: the cost of maritime pollution on a global scale is EUR 256 billion at 2006 prices. It has serious repercussions on the health of the inhabitants of coastal areas and on the environment. The scope of the Commission’s work is broad, which is why it should not break into and allow itself to be diverted into sectors which come under the jurisdiction of other operators.

 
  
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  Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the Commission. – Madam President, I should like to thank the honourable Members very much for their mostly very positive remarks about the work of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). How many agencies do we have in Europe? Close to 30; and EMSA is one of the most efficient and well-functioning agencies.

These discussions and Mr Fleckenstein’s report make a valuable contribution to fine-tuning EMSA’s task and also to making all stakeholders and partners aware of the available possibilities to use information held by EMSA and of how cooperation can be improved as regards the fight against piracy and the better functioning of maritime business.

The Commission enthusiastically supports the development of the European Maritime Safety Agency. Of course there are limits, as you understand very well. Everything depends on human and financial resources and, under the current circumstances, there is not a very big increase to be expected in these resources. But, within these resources, we can regroup and reorganise the work as well.

 
  
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  Knut Fleckenstein, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to thank those involved once again for their cooperation and also those who have just spoken for their contributions to the debate. There are naturally a few things that have not received adequate mention in our debate, as there has not been enough time – apprehending environmental polluters for example, and you mentioned piracy.

I would just like to make one thing clear once again, Mr van Dalen. This report does not call for a European coastguard. We are, however, asking to finally receive the expert opinion that we want – as decided by this Parliament a long time ago – on how this coastguard should be structured and what advantages and disadvantages it would have.

Mr Gallagher mentioned that EMSA saves the Member States a lot of money. That is correct. Now the issue of a coastguard could be seen as an example of the fact that we will only really have these synergy effects if we do not merely set something up jointly but if, back in our Member States, we also remember what was decided in Brussels and reduce the national structures accordingly. Only then will we see the synergy effects. Where one or two transport ministers are concerned, I have the impression that they join in the decision-making process in Brussels but then forget to tell anyone back home that adjustments need to be made as a result. I am a German MEP so I know what I am talking about.

Of course, we could not regulate everything. The gender issue is something we are taking seriously. Nevertheless, it is obviously difficult to regulate the gender issue in a satisfactory way in bodies to which 27 Member States each send one person. As regards competences – whether national or regional – we sometimes had the feeling in committee that this was a Spanish domestic discussion. It is all the same to me whether it is national or regional. The authorities must be the competent authorities, and that is what will make them the right points of contact. How the competence is determined is up to others at a local level.

My final point is that EMSA contains an ‘S’ for ‘safety’, you are absolutely right about that. However, Ms Foster, if you believe that as far as oil platforms are concerned, there are particularly good regulations in place, then I would remind you once again of what I said earlier: 500 accidents on oil and gas drilling rigs in 2008 show that we really need to consider how we can improve this situation and perhaps also integrate this within an agency that already deals with similar problems.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday, 15 December 2011, at 11.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Ismail Ertug (S&D), in writing.(DE) All of us have painful memories of the images of the burning Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the spring of 2010. Outdated technology and the conscious acceptance of safety risks led to the two-month long outflow of incredible quantities of crude oil. As we all know, the consequences for people and the environment were disastrous.

The fact that there is a danger of the same thing happening at the 450 drilling rigs in the North Sea, for example, was demonstrated in August of this year by the oil leak in the Gannet Alpha pipelines off the Scottish coast.

I therefore welcome the proposal put before us to extend the areas of competence of the European Maritime Safety Agency in this regard, so that in future, safety inspections can also be carried out on oil drilling rigs. EMSA has already proven its ability to act in connection with past tanker disasters. On the basis of this experience, I believe that the proposed extension of the areas of competence is preferable to the creation of a new agency.

In addition, this kind of European solution to maritime safety problems is preferable to having national supervisory authorities. The faster lines of communication and the cross-border consequences of incidents such as oil disasters can only be tackled at European level.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr Fleckenstein for his excellent work as rapporteur and I call on all my fellow Members to support this important dossier.

 
  
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  Valdemar Tomaševski (ECR), in writing. (PL) The European Maritime Safety Agency was set up in response to the pollution caused by tanker disasters. Today, everything must be done to widen the scope of the matters dealt with by the agency. Combating pollution at sea and ensuring compliance with the requirements of maritime safety and environmental protection must become the agency’s priority. The agency should, in particular, strengthen cooperation with third countries in waters where oil and gas are prospected and extracted. This will help prevent future environmental disasters. The idea of a European maritime transport area without barriers, involving the simplification of the formalities required to carry goods and passengers between European Union Member States, is also noteworthy. Also deserving of our support is the Blue Belt project. It will allow the administrative burden on short-sea shipping to be reduced. It also provides the assurance that a ship declaring intra-EU goods has only visited EU ports, and this will facilitate customs clearance. Finally, I call on Parliament to ensure that the agency’s broader remit is transparent and clearly set out. This will avoid both internal and international conflicts of interest in this field.

 
Last updated: 19 March 2012Legal notice