At the sitting of 6 November 2003 the European Parliament, pursuant to Rule 150(2) of the Rules of Procedure, adopted a decision on setting up a temporary committee on improving safety at sea.
To comply with its brief, the temporary committee appointed Dirk Sterckx rapporteur at its meeting of 26 November 2003.
It considered the draft report at its meetings of 8 March 2004 and 5 April 2004.
At the latter meeting it adopted the draft resolution by 25 votes to 1, with 16 abstentions.
The following were present for the vote: Georg Jarzembowski (chairman), Rosa Miguélez Ramos, Wilhelm Ernst Piecyk (vice-chairmen), Dirk Sterckx (rapporteur), Sylviane H. Ainardi, María Antonia Avilés (for Philip Charles Bradbourn), María del Pilar Ayuso González (for Salvador Garriga Polledo pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Juan José Bayona de Perogordo (for Françoise Grossetête pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Raquel Cardoso, Ilda Figueiredo (for Emmanouil Bakopoulos), Jacqueline Foster, Cristina García-Orcoyen Tormo, Koldo Gorostiaga Atxalandabaso, María Esther Herranz García (for Konstantinos Hatzidakis pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Liam Hyland (for Niall Andrews pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Juan de Dios Izquierdo Collado, Hans Karlsson, Brigitte Langenhagen, Emmanouil Mastorakis, Manuel Medina Ortega (for Karin Scheele pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Iñigo Méndez de Vigo (for Ari Vatanen pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Bill Miller (for Giovanni Claudio Fava), Ana Miranda de Lage (for Marie-Hélène Gillig), Enrique Monsonís Domingo, Francesco Musotto, Riitta Myller, Camilo Nogueira Román, Gérard Onesta (for Marie Anne Isler Béguin), Marcelino Oreja Arburúa (for Giles Bryan Chichester), Josu Ortuondo Larrea, Manuel Pérez Álvarez, Bernard Poignant, Christian Foldberg Rovsing, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (for Hugues Martin pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Gilles Savary, Olle Schmidt (for Astrid Thors pursuant to Rule 153(2)), Brian Simpson, Dominique F.C. Souchet, Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, Herman Vermeer, Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca (for Peter Pex pursuant to Rule 153(2)) and Jan Marinus Wiersma.
The report was tabled on 7 April 2004.
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on improving safety at sea
The European Parliament,
– having regard to Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states: 'Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity',
– having regard to its decision of 6 November 2003 to set up a temporary committee on improving safety at sea(1),
– having regard to its resolutions of 21 November 2002, 19 December 2002 and 23 September 2003 concerning the Prestige disaster(2) and its previous resolutions on safety at sea,
– having regard to the public hearings of the Temporary Committee on improving safety at sea held on 1-2 December 2003 and 22 January and 18 February 2004,
– having regard to the submissions in writing by the speakers invited to the public hearings,
– having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2004 on the fate of the Greek and Filipino members of the crew of the Tasman Spirit in Karachi, Pakistan(3),
– having regard to the exchange of views between a delegation from the Temporary Committee on improving safety at sea and the master of the Prestige on 5 February 2004 in Barcelona,
– having regard to the decisions adopted by the IMO at the 23rd session of its Assembly in November-December 2003,
– having regard to Rule 150(2) of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Temporary Committee on improving safety at sea (A5-0257/2004),
A. whereas various incidents in European waters have caused pollution since the Erika and Prestige disasters, such as that involving the Andinet, which lost leaky drums containing toxic substances off the coast of the Netherlands,
B. whereas research shows that, more than ten years after the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, the impact on the environment and the ecosystem is still visible and that short-term solutions such as clean-up operations can in the long term make matters even worse, although account must be taken of the particular characteristics of the oil carried by the Exxon Valdez and the fuel-oil carried by the Prestige, as well as the vast differences, in terms of coastline, climate and movement of waters, between Alaska and Galicia,
C. whereas major accidents are not the only problem: worldwide much of the pollution with hydrocarbons caused by ships is due to deliberate discharges, such as degassing; whereas, therefore, it is necessary to combat these illegal discharges by introducing a system of appropriate penalties,
D. whereas some maritime transport operators have made efforts to modernise their fleets and to train the seafarers they employ but further initiatives, including Community initiatives, are still needed,
E. whereas the Commission has promised to put forward in 2004 a new package of measures to improve safety at sea, comprising proposals concerning the living and working conditions of seafarers; port state and flag state control; maritime transport management and information; passenger liability and investigations into maritime accidents,
F. whereas the master of the Prestige, after having been detained for 83 days and having paid security of $ 3.2 m, is still required to report daily to the Spanish police,
G. whereas such treatment has subsequently been repeated in the ongoing case of the Tasman Spirit,
H. having regard to the rejection by the court in Corcubión of the European Parliament's request to hear the master during a public hearing in Brussels,
I. whereas, nearly a year and a half after the disaster, still no dates have been set for the opening of the proceedings against the master,
J. having regard to the statements by the master of the Prestige to Parliament concerning (a) the poor accessibility of the emergency towing installation because of the prevailing conditions, particularly the weather, (b) the damage to the engine as a result of which it could not immediately be started, (c) the requests by both the master and the rescuers to take the vessel to a place of refuge,
K. whereas the exact quantities are unclear but before the disaster there was 77 000 tons of heavy oil on board the Prestige, it is estimated that 14 000 tons now remain there, some 43 000 tons, according to the Spanish authorities' statistics, having been washed up and/or cleaned up; whereas therefore approximately 20 000 tons are unaccounted for, which consequently could still be a threat to the environment and the coast,
L. whereas the master of the Prestige estimated that 2000-3000 tons of fuel was lost immediately after the initial damage to the Prestige, as opposed to the Spanish authorities who estimated that at that time approximately 10 000 tons was lost,
The Prestige disaster and the wreck
1. Deplores the various shipping accidents which have occurred since the sinking of the Prestige, particularly the disaster involving the freighter Rocknes off the coast of Norway, which caused 18 deaths in January 2004; calls on the authorities to investigate the causes and the circumstances, particularly what role possibly the lack of communication skills and the fact that this vessel was double-hulled played in the disaster;
2. Stresses that far more attention ought to be devoted to the maintenance and condition of vessels, as a poorly maintained double-hulled tanker represents a greater potential hazard than a well-maintained single-hulled tanker;
3. Expresses its concern about the statement by the government commissioner on behalf of the Spanish authorities that if a disaster identical to the Prestige disaster were to recur, a decision would again be taken to tow the vessel away from the coast;
4. Welcomes the sealing operation to stop oil leaking from the wreck of the Prestige and the specific plans for making the wreck safe; calls on the competent authorities to continue their efforts to tackle the problem of the oil still present in the sea and the thousands of tons of waste in landfills and to put forward a detailed calendar for the extraction and treatment of the waste; urges that the expertise gained in the process be disseminated and used in tackling any future accidents;
5. Notes with concern that, nearly a year and a half after the Prestige disaster, all the investigations into the causes and circumstances of the disaster have still not been completed or the findings published; notes that the findings of the investigation by the Prestige's flag state (the Bahamas), for example, are still awaited; urges that agreements be reached under the auspices of the IMO on the speedy and independent investigation of shipping disasters and that the IMO include this requirement in its audit scheme for maritime authorities;
6. Calls on the Spanish judicial authorities, on the basis of total respect for the full independence of their decision-making and of Article 73 of the Montego Bay Convention, to allow the master of the Prestige to return to his country pending his trial, and to relax the requirement for him to report daily, and as soon as possible to clarify the date on which the legal proceedings against the master are to begin, and the schedule for these proceedings;
Improving maritime safety at European level
7. Stresses that, in response to the Erika and Prestige disasters, important legislative measures have been taken to make shipping safer in European waters and that rapid and complete introduction and strict enforcement of the European rules by the Member States must therefore be a priority; deplores the fact, in this connection, that seven Member States (Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands) have still not transposed, or have still not completely transposed, two crucial directives on port state control and classification societies;
8. Considers that, as it is also very important to have effective emergency planning on board vessels, the Commission should propose measures to ensure that all tankers and vessels carrying a significant quantity of oil as fuel should be required to maintain a comprehensive vessel emergency response plan as part of an EU-wide industry-based Emergency Response System;
9. Deplores likewise that some Member States have not fully implemented the directive establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring and information system and particularly Article 20 thereof, which concerns the drawing-up of plans to provide places of refuge for ships in distress(4);
10. Calls on each coastal Member State to establish a clear decision-making and command structure for dealing with maritime emergencies and an independent authority which has the powers and expertise to take the necessary decisions, with which all parties concerned must comply, in particular the selection and mandatory assignment of an emergency mooring or port;
11. Emphasises the importance of transnational cooperation in dealing with major maritime accidents, based on standing operational networks and clear rules and procedures tested regularly via exercises;
12. Stresses that, when considering measures to improve safety at sea, sufficient attention must be devoted to particular features of the EU's various sea areas, which differ, inter alia, on account of climate: for example, special safety requirements apply in the Baltic during the winter;
13. Calls for the establishment of a European coastguard service equipped with the necessary competence and instruments to ensure: (1) maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment (including fisheries surveillance), protection against terrorism, piracy and maritime crime; (2) strict monitoring of adherence to certain shipping routes and the prosecution of the illegal entry of vessels; (3) the swiftest possible coordination of the necessary measures in the event of an accident at sea, including the assignment of emergency moorings and ports;
14. Welcomes the initiative of the Commission to organise a series of visits to Member States to verify the existence and contents of plans for dealing with places of refuge; calls on the Commission to complete as soon as possible its evaluation of the plans submitted and its visits to appropriate locations and submit the results of this investigation to the Council and the European Parliament and to make a clear statement which parts of the plans should be public;
15. Is concerned about the increasing transhipment of oil between vessels off the coasts of Europe; calls on the Member States therefore, when drawing up emergency plans, to take account of the specific risks associated with this;
16. Observes that the capacity for cleaning up oil at sea has proved inadequate in certain areas and that no improvement measures have been taken since the sinking of the Prestige; welcomes the fact, therefore, that EMSA is being assigned an operational remit in this field and stresses the importance of making available the requisite funding to carry out this remit;
17. Reiterates its request that the Commission make proposals as soon as possible for financial compensation for places of refuge and to make it clear to what extent existing international conventions already provide for compensation; calls on the Member States and the Union to ratify these conventions as soon as possible;
18. Calls on the Commission to investigate the scope for introducing mandatory insurance for vessels in European waters so that damages and costs of places of refuge as well as social and environmental costs in the event of an accident can also be recovered from the owners of vessels; calls for a proposal for the introduction of an EU-wide common method for disaster assessment, with a view to facilitating, as in the US, compensation for social or collective damage to the natural heritage, including the deterioration of commercially non-viable marine and land biodiversity;
19. Considers that the insurance system to be established must cover not only the value of the cargo but also risks of potential environmental damage in the light of the nature of the cargo;
20. Calls on the Transport Council, one year after the publication of the Commission proposal, to finally adopt a position on the directive concerning the introduction of penalties (under the criminal law) for pollution from ships; stresses its view that a system of penalties is crucial in order to combat illegal discharges, but that this must not result in a general criminalisation of seafarers, thereby damaging the image of their profession;
21. Views with concern the limited progress made by certain new Member States in implementing European and world rules on maritime safety; notes that there is particular concern about the new Member States: the Baltic States, Malta and Cyprus; calls on the Commission to continue to monitor closely the process of integration of the acquis and calls on the new Member States, in particular Malta and Cyprus, to continue their efforts and strengthen their maritime administrations;
22. Welcomes the periodic publication by the Commission of a black list of vessels which are banned from entering European waters and ports; urges the Member States to enforce strictly the provisions of the port State control Directive on refusal of access and to improve, standardise and step up port inspections, while urging the Commission to carry out effective controls and to undertake an audit of the classification societies, including their subsidiaries and companies part-owned by them, introducing penalties for non-compliance with obligations;
23. Calls on the Commission to promote a detailed study of all chemical products and radioactive substances carried by vessels, providing specific information on degree of toxicity, chemical composition and dangerousness;
24. Calls on the Commission to make a proposal for tracing (by means of transponders) containers and other loading units containing dangerous goods, so that they can be located after being lost at sea; calls on the Commission to further develop the SafeSeaNet European data exchange platform in order to add new functionalities and integrate new technological developments, such as transponders; urges the Member States to fully use this system with a view to closer monitoring of traffic and better identification of ships likely to pose a risk to safety, security or the environment;
25. Is concerned about the registration and labelling of containers and drums containing hazardous chemicals and substances, in view of the loss of a highly toxic cargo from the Andinet in the North Sea, when it became apparent that the substance in question was not the same as that indicated in the bills of lading;
26. Is concerned that the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) recently concluded between Russia and the European Community provides insufficient safeguards for maritime safety in the Baltic region; calls on the Commission, therefore, to coordinate closely with Member States and the European Parliament its continuing negotiations with Russia, with a view to developing common criteria to determine conditions of access to the Baltic for ships carrying dangerous cargo; considers that the outcome of these negotiations should reflect an equal level of responsibility for both signatories to protect the marine environment of the Baltic region;
27. Urges the Commission, in the promised proposal for a directive on investigating shipping accidents, to provide for a system which will ensure optimal exchanges of findings from investigations between Member States, the Commission and EMSA and safeguard the independence of investigations, preferably by setting up an independent European investigation unit within EMSA;
28. Calls on the Commission to examine the possibility of giving EMSA access, under certain conditions and in particular unannounced, to vessels for the purpose of performing on the spot inspection and examination tasks assigned to it and to draft a proposal accordingly, if appropriate;
29. Calls, in addition, for an increased budgetary allocation for EMSA, so that it can have at its service, as soon as possible, a fleet of anti-pollution vessels to complement the Member States' efforts, and can also perform more effective checks on the activities of the classification societies;
30. Stresses the importance of providing the most up-to-date navigational means, such as: Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC), Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) as well as regularly updated information on water depths (especially in areas with restricted water depths);
Improving maritime safety worldwide
31. Supports the call by the Secretary-General of the IMO for the EU Member States to continue playing a full part in the work of the IMO and welcomes the outcome of the discussions between the Commissioner responsible for transport and the IMO Secretary-General on the margins of the MARE meeting in January 2004 concerning closer cooperation between their organisations;
32. Reiterates its request to the Council to apply for membership of the IMO for the Union;
33. Is concerned about the increase in exports of Russian oil via the Baltic and along the shores of the EU, as they often make use of the cheapest substandard tonnage; welcomes, accordingly, close cooperation between the Commission and the IMO, which must check that classification societies are carrying out inspections properly and that the certificates issued are correct;
34. Understands the concern of the Secretary-General of the IMO regarding unilateral and regional action by countries outside the framework of the IMO, considers, however, that EU action may sometimes be necessary in the interests of safety; considers, moreover, that EU measures can act as a catalyst within the IMO, as in the case of the accelerated phasing-out of single-hulled tankers;
35. Considers that the designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) under the auspices of the IMO should be accompanied by clear and enforceable rules, such as more stringent compulsory reporting, identification of all operators and rerouting of high-risk vessels, differentiated according to cargo; deplores the action taken by some IMO member states to postpone any new designation of PSSA areas;
36. Regrets that up until now only three IMO member states have ratified the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001, of which only one is an EU Member State, as any bunker oil spill is a threat to the marine environment and its biodiversity, and that without full ratification there will be no international framework covering pollution damage resulting from a bunker oil spill; to that effect urges EU Member States to ratify the convention and the Commission to promote such ratification;
37. Calls for the establishment of special zones within environmentally sensitive and navigationally difficult areas of the Baltic Sea, particularly the Kadet Trench, the Skagerrak/Kattegat, the Great Belt and the Sound, which ocean-going vessels, in particular oil tankers, may no longer negotiate without a pilot and calls on the Commission and the Member States to initiate the necessary measures in the competent international bodies, in particular the IMO;
38. Welcomes the recommendation on harmonised rules concerning transport in the Baltic Sea area during the winter adopted by the Helsinki Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (HELCOM);
39. Rejects, on the other hand, the categorical banning of high-risk vessels from the 200-mile zone, as this measure is legally contentious, impedes rapid and effective assistance to vessels in distress and their crews, and causes vessels to make detours, which displaces or even aggravates the problem;
40. Reiterates the need to revise the International Law of the Sea so as to confer greater powers on coastal states to reinforce maritime safety in their exclusive economic zones and to improve the protection of the marine environment;
41. Stresses that up to 80% of accidents at sea are due to human error, even higher in the case of collisions and groundings; considers that the human element is multi-faceted; therefore calls on the Commission to address the human element issues when adopting a new 'Erika III' package, which it has announced for 2004, and urges the introduction of compulsory refresher courses and courses on rescue operations under the terms of the STCW Convention;
42. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to press within the IMO for more stringent international rules in regard to safety training for captains, officers and crews, with particular reference to compulsory further training and refresher courses in vessel safety, accident management, fire protection, and emergency measures such as towing, emergency moorings or combating harmful substances;
43. Believes there should be an international programme for cooperation bringing together all of the world's vessel inspection systems (MOUs), including a centralised and easily accessible database that can be consulted rapidly, with a view to ensuring that the movement of vessels between zones does not permit the loss of traces or the disappearance of any record of offences;
44. Welcomes in this context the inspections which EMSA will perform regarding the application of the STCW Convention in third countries; stresses that penalties are needed in cases of flagrant violation of the Convention, and calls on the Commission in particular to take strong action against countries which issue certificates of competency for merchant shipping officers on false or fraudulent grounds;
45. Calls for measures to raise the prestige of maritime occupations and make them more attractive to young people in general and young Europeans in particular;
46. Expresses its concern about the proliferation of counterfeit and fraudulent certificates; requests the Commission to establish incentives for crew members to inform authorities where these criminal activities are prevalent and no corrective action is taken by the owners or flag state;
47. Welcomes the decisions adopted by the IMO in December 2003 concerning guidelines for ports of refuge and the introduction of a voluntary audit system for IMO member states; urges, however, that this system be made compulsory without delay and its results published;
48. Is aware of the difficulty faced by certain third states in implementing international rules on safety at sea; calls therefore on the Council and Commission to incorporate in the Community's development policy programmes to bolster maritime administrations;
49. Calls for a review of the international legislation on maritime transport with a view to improving transparency as regards operational structures, identity of the operators, type of goods carried and the safety measures applying in each case; reiterates the need for measures to encourage vessels to fly Community flags rather than flags of convenience of countries which do not meet the vessel inspection and safety standards;
Socioeconomic, environmental and fisheries aspects
50. Notes that the rapid opening-up of fishing grounds in the affected areas after the Prestige disaster may in the short term have eased the situation of the fishing industry concerned, but fears that, in the longer term, this decision in combination with overfishing will adversely affect fish stocks and the profitability of the industry;
51. Stresses that, one year and more on from the Prestige disaster and despite the reduction in extractive activity, information from the local fishermen's associations suggests that there has been a considerable shortfall vis-à-vis usual catch levels in respect of fish stocks in the area;
52. Stresses that under the new Community financial perspective (2007-2013) provision must be made for specific financial instruments for the fisheries sector of a nature suited to the needs of coastal communities affected by maritime disasters;
53. Stresses that experience of the Exxon Valdez disaster demonstrates the need for long-term scientific research into the environmental impact of the Prestige disaster; considers that this research should examine, inter alia, the knock-on effects of pollution in the food chain and the impact of the pollution on biodiversity; urges that agreements be reached on the joint financing of such research by the regions and Member States concerned and by the EU;
54. Considers that the effective role played by fishing fleets in combating pollution from the Prestige and in perfecting fuel recovery trawls should encourage EU Member States to develop preventively, on a permanent basis, with the aid of Community funding, this flexible approach to cleaning up pollution, which makes it possible to act before pollution reaches the coast;
55. Hopes that such long-term research and exchanges of the research findings will make it possible to assess more realistically the immediate and delayed damage and thus arrive at a more considered approach to future environmental disasters;
56. Considers that the Commission should ensure that response to wildlife during an oil spill is integrated into the overall oil spill response and planning mechanisms, ensuring that this response is carried out according to best practice; considers furthermore that the Commission should prioritise the development of adequate measures to restore damaged ecosystems following an oil spill and ensure the recovery of populations of affected species;
57. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission.
On 19 November 2002, the oil tanker Prestige sank off the coast of Galicia, Spain, after having drifted around for six days in atrocious weather conditions. This caused an ecological and economic disaster of unusual proportions. The fishing industry and tourism in Galicia and neighbouring regions were particularly hard hit. The oil spread over a large area and caused pollution not only on the coast of Spain but also, inter alia, on that of France and Portugal.
Immediately after the sinking of the Prestige, the European Parliament adopted two resolutions expressing its concern about the ecological disaster which was developing. On 19 and 20 March 2003, Parliament held a public hearing with various experts in Brussels. In March 2003 a delegation from Parliament visited the affected area in Galicia, and this was followed by a visit to various maritime organisations and institutes in Brest, France, in April 2003. The findings were recorded in a report and a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 23 September 2003.
Temporary Committee on improving safety at sea
In its resolution of 23 September, Parliament called, inter alia, for the setting-up of a temporary parliamentary committee on improving safety at sea. It was to build on earlier work by Parliament. On 5 November 2003, the setting-up of the committee (the 'MARE committee') was formally approved in plenary, its powers being as follows:
(a) to examine in detail maritime disasters, in particular the Prestige, the Erika and other recent accidents and incidents;
(b) to further analyse their social and economic consequences, with regard in particular to fisheries, industry and tourism, as well as the environment and health;
(c) to assess maritime safety standards more generally and the application of these standards by the Member States in compliance with EU and international law;
(d) to seek to ensure implementation of the recommendations contained in its resolution of 23 September 2003;
(e) to propose additional measures which were found to be necessary.
After a constituent meeting in November, the Temporary Committee on improving safety at sea held three public hearings (in December, January and February) at which it heard numerous technical experts, scientists and representatives of non-governmental organisations concerning the subjects mentioned in the committee's remit. At the same time, discussions were held with government representatives; discussion partners included the European Commission, the Irish Presidency of the Council and the Spanish government commissioner responsible for dealing with the Prestige.
Exchange of views with the master of the Prestige, Apostoulos Mangouras
In January, the chairman of the Temporary Committee asked the Spanish judicial authorities to allow the master of the Prestige, Mr Apostoulos Mangouras, to travel to Brussels to speak at one of the public hearings there. However, no reply was received from the court. Thereupon a delegation from the MARE committee, consisting of the chairman, the vice-chairman, the rapporteur and three members, visited Barcelona on 4 and 5 February to hold discussions with the master and his lawyer. A few days later, on 10 February, the EP received from the court a rejection of its request.
During the meeting in Barcelona, which at the master's request took place in camera, Captain Mangouras presented his interpretation of the events between 13 November 2002, when the Prestige found itself in distress, and 15 November 2002, when he was taken off the vessel by helicopter. The discussion with the delegation broadly confirmed what the master had told Parliament in writing in March 2003. The agreement enabled the master to provide additional information and clarifications where necessary.
For example, he discussed the problems he had experienced in fixing a life line to the vessel. According to the master, this was hampered by the weather conditions, oil and water on the deck and the waves breaking over the deck. Moreover, the requisite power and crew to operate the emergency towing installation were lacking.
The master stressed that, both before and after filling the ballast tanks in order to correct the vessel's list, he had calculations performed to estimate the risks involved.
The master also gave details of the orders he had received from the Spanish authorities, the rescue operation and the legal proceedings which were being prepared against him, in which the charge would be disobeying orders and pollution of the environment. The master resolutely denied his guilt.
Lastly, the master observed that the environmental disaster could have been avoided if the Prestige had been towed to a port of refuge.
Accidents since the Prestige disaster
Regrettably, despite the measures taken in response to the sinking of the Prestige, various accidents to ships have occurred in European waters since November 2002.
One of the most serious was the sinking of the freighter Rocknes on 19 January 2004. The vessel, with 30 crew on board, carrying a cargo of stone, is thought to have hit a rock off the coast of Norway near Bergen, and capsized a few seconds later. The rescue operation was set in motion swiftly; 12 members of the crew were rescued, some of them after a hole had been drilled in the hull. However, the other 18 people on board died in the icy water.
The rock is not marked on charts and lies outside the shipping channel. Probably, therefore, the vessel was off course when it struck the rock. Further investigation will be needed to establish the exact cause of this disaster. As part of that, it will be important to establish what role the ship's double hull played in its sinking; onlookers apparently saw water between the hulls, which could have explained its rapid capsizing.
In other accidents there were no fatalities but cargoes - in some cases toxic - escaped into the sea. This was the case, for example, with the distressed Ethiopian freighter Andinet, from which three containers and 63 drums containing the wood preservative arsenic pentoxide were washed overboard off the Dutch coast in December 2003. It is possible that 5000 litres of this toxic substance escaped into the water.
Remarks by the rapporteur
Your rapporteur observes that the setting-up of the MARE committee made it possible for the European Parliament to build further on the work already done in preparation for the first Prestige report. At the three public hearings and during the interview with the master of the Prestige, useful additional information was presented concerning both the Prestige disaster (and its handling) and the scope for improving safety at sea in Europe and worldwide.
For half a year, the MARE committee also provided a framework in which policy-makers from, inter alia, the EP, Council, Commission, EMSA and IMO could exchange views on ways of improving safety at sea. This guaranteed constant political attention for maritime safety. Sometimes it also yielded direct results. For example, Commissioner De Palacio and IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos took the opportunity provided by their attendance at one of the public hearings to reach practical agreement, in the margins of the meeting, on further cooperation between their organisations. The MARE committee accordingly proved its usefulness as an international forum.
The MARE committee and this report also provided an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which the recommendations made in the Prestige report of September 2003 had already been translated into policy. In a number of cases the conclusions were positive: measures have been taken, for instance, to ban old single-hulled tankers carrying heavy oil from European waters and a good deal of progress has been made with the conferral of additional powers on EMSA.
Moreover, the Commission has announced that during 2004 it will submit a package of supplementary measures which will fulfil a number of the EP's previous requests. The package will consist of the following proposals:
- communication on the implementation of the ILO provisions on the living and working conditions of seafarers;
- update of the Port State Control directive;
- directive on maritime transport management and information system (update of Directive 2002/59/EC);
- regulation on compliance with IMO flag state rules (combined with simplified PSC procedures);
- regulation on the application of the Athens protocol - passengers' liability for all traffic (national and international) and
- directive on maritime accident investigation.
However, the European Parliament's recommendations have not yet been acted upon in all respects. For example, some Member States have not yet complied with their legal obligation to designate ports of refuge and draw up emergency plans; this was one of the most important points in the resolution of September 2003. The Council has also made little or no progress with other elements, such as membership of the IMO for the Union and penalties for polluting the sea.
In the motion for a resolution, your rapporteur therefore reiterates various requests which have been made previously, as well as making a number of new recommendations.