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New EU rules to "name and shame" shipping companies

Date: 13/10/2010

New rules to enhance and improve the safety performance of ships were adopted by the European Commission. The rules will introduce, from January 1st 2011, a new online register to “to name and shame” shipping companies which are performing poorly on vital safety inspections (port state controls), while those with strong safety records will be given good public visibility.

Port state controls are crucial for preventing shipping disasters and the tragic loss of life and huge environmental damage that can result.  Companies and states which show up as poorly performing will be subject to more intensive, co-ordinated inspections in EU ports.  Manufacturers or other industries will be able to choose the shipping companies they use for freight or passengers in full knowledge of their safety record.

Vice-president Sim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said: “Safety is the first priority for EU. We have seen the devastating effects of maritime disasters like the sinking of the ferry Estonia or the Erika or Prestige in terms of tragic loss of life and massive environmental damage. As ever I am strongly convinced about the power of transparency. We want to shine a light on the safety records of shipping companies, flag states and certification organisations. More transparency in this sector will showcase companies with a strong safety records giving them a competitive advantage. The register will also put poor performers in their spotlight so that with tougher inspection regimes and public pressure there is every incentive for them to raise their game rather than face a ban from EU waters.”

Malta’s maritime authorities will have to start giving more information about the inspections they carry out on ships visiting Maltese harbours under new EU rules expected to come into force next year.

Although already obliged to inspect 25 per cent of all the ships that enter harbour, the authorities will now have to start sharing the information on these inspections with the other EU member states following the introduction of a set of new rules just approved by the European Commission.

The new rules

On 1 January 2011, the port state control regime (technical safety inspections in ports) in the European Union will change significantly under EU Directive 2009/16/EC on port state control.  Under the new regime there will not only be EU wide harmonisation of port state control inspection standards, as currently exists, there will also be for the first time a fully co-ordinated system of all the port state  safety inspections carried out in the EU.

The new EU wide system will rely on an advanced information tool known as “THETIS” (operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). THETIS will track all safety inspections on ships carried out in ports in the EU and provide a risk analysis which will determine the frequency and priorities for inspections by the competent authorities of Member States.  The regulations adopted today by the Commission specify the criteria for assessing the risk profile of ships using company performance and the flag state performance as appears in THETIS.

The pan-European system of co-ordination and analysis will allow for a more effective use of inspection resources in ports and in particular the more effective targeting of high risk ships and companies with low safety performance.  The online register will list companies whose safety performance has been low or very low for a period of three months or more.  Ships on the register which are operated by companies with bad safety records of deficiencies and detentions will be subject to very frequent inspections while ships operated by companies with good records will benefit of less inspections.

Every year more than 80,000 individual ship call in European ports. The safety inspections of ships carried out at ports (port state control) are of crucial importance to prevent maritime accidents.  Under current EU rules there are harmonised standards for inspections and Member States are obliged to inspect 25% of ships that call at their ports.  Ships with serious deficiencies and detentions can be blacklisted under EU law – and banned from operation in EU waters.

However, the current regime still operates with a “national logic” i.e. the selection of the 25% of ships for inspection in national ports is determined by different national authorities. There is some but limited EU wide co-ordination between different national authorities. The results of all the different national inspections are currently not systematically analysed on a pan European basis or published on an EU wide basis.

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