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EC takes EU governments to court over maritime safety inaction

EC takes EU governments to court over maritime safety inaction

   The European Commission said today it has decided to take eight European Union member states to the European Court of Justice over their failure to implement maritime safety rules agreed at the European level.

   The EC named the governments of Belgium, Greece, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and the United Kingdom as the accused.

   “They failed to implement key EU legislation on vessel traffic monitoring and information systems which was adopted by the EU in the wake of the ‘Erika’ accident,” the EC said, referring the vessel's oil spill in 1999.

   The legislation's aim is to enhance the safety of maritime traffic by improving the authorities' response to incidents, accidents and potentially dangerous situations at sea, therefore contributing to better prevention and detection of pollution by ships.

   “Five years after the wreck of the ‘Erika’ and three years after that of the ‘Prestige,’ I am appalled that member states delay the implementation of key measures to improve maritime safety,” said Jacques Barrot, the new European commissioner in charge of transport.

   The 2002 directive was to be implemented at the national level by February 2004.

   It sets out the obligation to notify the maritime authorities, in particular in case a ship is carrying dangerous or polluting goods. The directive also provides for the monitoring of hazardous ships and for the intervention in the event of accidents at sea. In this context it sets out the obligation for member states to draw up plans to accommodate ships in distress in the waters under their jurisdiction.