The coastline of the European Union is many thousands of kilometers in length and contains well over 600 individual ports. These handle around 90% of EU external trade and around 35% of trade between EU countries. This involves handling 3.5 billion tones of goods and 350 million passengers being transported on millions of ship journeys each year.
Consequently, it is vital that EU maritime transport operates in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly way. In support of these goals, and in addition to the systems and procedures in place in each country, the EU has set legislation in place under port state control. This aims to ensure that there is effective inspection of ships in EU ports and, thereby, to ensure that ships sailing in EU waters have been appropriately constructed and maintained.
Against this background, EMSA has been given the technical responsibility for monitoring of port state control at EU level. This involves assessing the functioning of the port state inspection systems set up by individual EU members, undertaking a comprehensive analysis of global statistics relating to vessels calling at EU ports, as well as analysis of data on individual ship inspections. The consequent risk assessment studies and statistical research provides results which can be used to develop objectives and procedures for the continuous improvement of EU port state control performance. In addition, the Agency carries out a number of supporting tasks in this area order to ensure the overall effectiveness of the EU port state control system.
For example, it:
Provides technical assistance related to European Commission participation in the various bodies dealing with port state control,
Promotes, and contributes to, collaboration between Member States in the training field, and in the development of technical practices aimed at improving the implementation of the EU port state control Directive,
Plays a role in implementing the ban on ships flying a blacklisted flag that have been repeatedly detained, and publishes and updates the list on a regular basis and
Provides technical assistance to the Commission in preparing an amendment to Directive 95/21, in support of the Council Conclusion of 6th December 2002, which was adopted following the Prestige casualty.
Due to a number of serious vessel casualties that have occurred in recent years, ship safety is a subject that is currently receiving a high level of attention in national, European and international fora.
Inadequate safety standards can lead to loss of life, pollution, destruction of the environment and significant financial costs and losses to communities, governments, industry and others.
Ship safety standards are developed and set, at the international level, by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). They are subsequently implemented and enforced by both national maritime authorities and, under delegated powers, by recognized organizations. European legislation clarifies, and sometimes reinforces, the ship safety standards that have been established by IMO Conventions.
Recent concerns within the EU, that ship safety standards were not being effectively administered by those with the authority to do so, have contributed to the establishment of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
EMSA’s task, in conjunction with the European Commission, is to ensure that Community legislation on ship safety issues is effectively and consistently applied, by all Member States, to the sea going vessels that fall under their jurisdiction. This task involves monitoring and appraising the development and implementation of legislation dealing with the design, construction, operational integrity and safety of ships and their equipment.
Although EMSA was not given tasks and responsibilities in respect of maritime security until 2004 following the coming into force of Regulation (EC) No 724/2004, the concept of security in the maritime sector is not new. Following the seizure of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, there was much speculation that an increased number of security incidents would follow.
In recent years, the maritime industry has been broadly evaluating security at its facilities and voluntarily taking actions to improve security as deemed appropriate based on shipping trade area, geographic location, potential risk to workers and the surrounding communities, and potential risk attacks.
Terrorism ties and political agendas are the latest trend in motivation for stealing cargo and ships, suggesting that “modern pirates” are increasing the violence and the severity of the attacks.
However, it took the tragic events of September 11th 2001 for the maritime community to agree the need for international maritime security requirements. Following intensive discussions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new international maritime security requirements in the SOLAS Convention years back, new Chapter XI-2, and a new International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and They were required to be implemented.