Make shipping safer

25 September 2008

Make shipping safer

SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer wants to see an end brought as quickly as possible to the dangers and abuses which plague shipping. He spoke on the subject today in the European Parliament plenary debate: "In sea transport freedom of enterprise can lead to dangerous abuses."

Low costs

Ship The chemical tanker Sichem Princess Marie-Chantal had Panama City as its home harbour when this photo was taken in 2005, but in 2007 it was registered under the Maltese flag in Valetta. The ship is, however, the property of the Singaporean Eitzen Chemical. "Shipping firms who want to keep their costs as low as possible can be tempted to sail with old ships which can be dangerous for the crew and others," Meijer said. "And they can seriously threaten the environment." Sailing under a flag of a foreign country for purely economic reasons can lead also to poor working conditions and other abuses. Another unacceptable manner of lowering costs is the dumping overboard of ship's waste and ballast.

Malicious operators

"In order to do something about this it is necessary that ships run by malicious operators can be once and for all refused entry into European ports, that anchorages outside the harbours are also ruled out for these ships and that sufficient inspections take place for the authorities to be able to determine just what abuses are occurring," says Meijer. 'The port obligations under the Maritime Labour Treaty of the International Labour Organisation must be strictly adhered to, the polluter must pay and night or day all rules must be enforced. All attempts by the Council of Ministers to have such operators treated more leniently than was demanded in the European Parliament's first reading would lead to unacceptable consequences."

Ship in distress

In relation to the proposed enquiry into shipping accidents, the Council rejected the majority of the 23 amendments proposed by the Parliament. In Meijer's view, this could jeopardise the independence of this enquiry. The Council, which directly represents member state governments, also put the brakes on when it came to the protection of passengers on seagoing vessels when in 2003 it refused to adhere to the Treaty of Athens. In the Common Position adopted in June 2008, the duty to inform, and liability, were both limited. In relation to shipping disasters, the Council did not endorse the proposals of the European Commission and the European Parliament which were aimed at creating a situation in which a ship in distress must always receive timely emergency relief in a port of refuge and where crews would be protected from punishment for instances of negligence for which they were not responsible. "An end must be put to all dangerous situations and abuses in shipping as quickly as possible," says Meijer. "It is for that reason important that the European Parliament stands up to the Council in the second reading and sticks to the line laid down before."

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