Maritime safety draft

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an EU body, is upbeat about the Erika III package of measures drafted by the European Commission about maritime safety, although it calls for more work on certain points. EESC notes that the Erika III measures are in the right direction regarding adherence to obligation by «port» states, the monitoring of ships by coastal countries, observation by registers, investigation of accidents, monitoring of ship traffic and relevant information. However, the committee has questioned the proposal about liability in shipping passengers with the civil liability of shipowners, too, as this requires further examination. On this point EESC advises that signatory member states ratify the limiting of liability to naval requirement issues, which would double the limit of shipowners’ civil liability. The committee also said the resources for port state controls must rise and proposed an increase in the number of inspectors at ports and hiring of specialized staff. Athens Convention As far as the implementation of the Athens Convention of 2002 is concerned, regarding maritime transport liability, EESC argues that the regulation concerning a community solidarity fund should be amended to cover compensation for emergency assistance in situations involving war and terrorism. Another committee proposal is about the national maritime transport of passengers, suggesting a transition period of adjustment to minimize the negative consequences and safeguard the viability of local ferry enterprises. The ratification of all existing IMO conventions will rationalize the civil liability system, EESC states. Therefore member states must proceed to ratifying the Convention on Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) and the Convention on Bunkers (the rejection of ships’ tank fuel), so that they can be enforced as soon as possible. «Civil liability must have clear and transparent rules and the internationally used term for lifting liability limitation is ‘inconsiderate behavior in the knowledge of possible damage’ instead of ‘heavy negligence,’» notes the committee. It presented its position to representatives of the European and international shipping community, while its draft position was approved by 198 votes to two in the committee’s latest plenum.