'I am particularly satisfied with the agreement reached between the Parliament and the Council. It is a significant step towards improved prevention of maritime accidents and increased accountability of all the operators in the sector', said Commission Vice-President Tajani. 'This package complements and updates existing EU legislation and comes as a strong response to the growing concerns of our citizens,' he added.
With this package, the European Union will have a completely overhauled system for monitoring vessels in its ports. This system will allow a more frequent and systematic inspection of vessels that pose a risk. It will also make it possible to definitively ban the worst of them from European ports.
The provisions on granting European recognition to the competent bodies for certifying vessels on behalf of the Member States will be strengthened. More rigorous standards will govern the work carried out by classification groups. These standards will be accompanied by a system of financial penalties and a certification body for their quality control systems.
The instruments for monitoring traffic along European coasts will be improved. The SafeSeaNet system will henceforth be the sole medium for all electronic exchanges of maritime data between the Member States. A European centre for long-distance vessel monitoring will be set up. Fishing vessels will be better protected from collisions. The power to make independent decisions on the accommodation of ships in distress in places of refuge will be guaranteed.
Independence will also be ensured for investigations following accidents. A common method of investigation and the creation of a solid database will make it possible to draw on the lessons learnt from experience to prevent future accidents.
Preventing accidents is also, and above all, the responsibility of the vessels' flag authorities. These authorities should be audited in accordance with the model approved by the International Maritime Organisation and should hold a quality certificate.
All vessels calling at European ports must be insured. This insurance must be at the maximum levels for limited liability, those set by the 1996 Convention of the International Maritime Organisation on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC). Even if this convention does not cover more than 20% of the world's fleet today, all vessels entering our ports must comply with this rule.
Lastly, the liability and insurance system provided for in an international convention on personal damages approved by the International Maritime Organisation (the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea) is enshrined in European law. This means there will be adequate and equal protection for all citizens making international journeys in four years at the latest. Moreover, this protection will be progressively extended to cover travel within one single country.