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Document 52011AE0365

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation (EU) No …/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency’ — COM(2010) 611 final — 2010/0303 (COD)

OJ C 107, 6.4.2011, p. 68–71 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

6.4.2011   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 107/68


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation (EU) No …/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency’

COM(2010) 611 final — 2010/0303 (COD)

2011/C 107/14

Rapporteur: Mr SIMONS

On 22 and 10 November 2010 respectively, the Council and the European Parliament decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 100(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the

Proposal for a Regulation (EU) […/…] of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency

COM(2010) 611 final — 2010/0303 (COD).

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 2 February 2011.

At its 469th plenary session, held on 16 and 17 February 2011 (meeting of 16 February) the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 114 votes with one abstention.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations

1.1   The Committee welcomes the role played by European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in improving maritime safety in the Member States. The Committee also considers it very important in the future for the tasks and competences of the EMSA to be extended in a sensible way.

1.2   By ‘in a sensible way’, the Committee means that the tasks, responsibilities and competences of EMSA must be formulated and laid down more clearly than hitherto, so that no misunderstandings can arise in the division of tasks between EMSA, the Commission and the Member States.

1.3   With reference to the proportionality principle, the Committee would point out that, in its proposal, the Commission in certain respects anticipates the role that EMSA could play in the future. Decisions will have to be taken on the matter at EU level first.

1.4   The Committee is surprised at the sudden mention of inland waterways in Article 2(2)(d). No other reference is made to inland waterways, either in the relevant existing legislation, which, as the title indicates, addresses maritime issues only, or in the explanatory memorandum, impact assessment or recitals of the current amendment. There is no mention at all of the reasons and justification for including inland waterways, the scope of this addition, the technical requirements involved and how the different sea and inland waterways policies, as well as the completely different governance and management arrangements at national and international level, are to be addressed. For these reasons alone, not to mention the essential fact that separate vessel traffic services have already been set up for these two transport modes because they are very different in nature, the reference to inland waterways should be dropped.

1.5   The EESC can certainly conceive of there being a legal basis, and thus also budgetary scope, as soon as possible for the Agency to be able to assist the Commission by providing relevant and specified knowledge and expertise based on its activities in the maritime sphere, but this should then apply not just to all modes of transport, but even in other policy areas.

1.6   The EESC is happy with the proposal to bring the founding regulation more into line with the EU legislation in the third maritime safety package.

1.7   The EESC recommends that the roles of EMSA, the Commission, the Member States, and the Administrative Board be clarified, notably with respect to the organisation of inspections.

1.8   The EESC therefore endorses the Commission's proposal to follow the example of the European Aviation Safety Authority when establishing EMSA's operational working methods for inspections.

1.9   The EESC considers that, because EMSA has already proved that it can provide added value, it should receive the staff and funding required to be able to continue playing its role as it should in the future. In the Committee's view, this means continuing with regular external evaluations.

2.   Introduction

2.1   On 28 October 2010, the Commission published its Proposal for a Regulation (EU) of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (COM(2010) 611 final), and it has asked the European Economic and Social Committee, in accordance with Article 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to give its opinion on the text.

2.2   The EESC is pleased to meet this request, as it considers this proposal to be an important further step in improving maritime safety.

2.3   It should be remembered that maritime safety did not really become a policy concern until after the sinking of the oil tanker Erika, which resulted in serious oil pollution damage.

2.4   At the end of 2000, the Commission submitted a proposal for a regulation to set up a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). This Agency was supposed to function as a technical body to ensure a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety and prevent pollution by ships.

2.5   The regulation came into effect in August 2002 and EMSA started operating in March 2003. The regulation has been amended three times since then.

2.6   The first amendment, Regulation 1644/2003, concerned mainly financial and budgetary procedures and was intended to improve transparency.

2.7   The second amendment, Regulation 724/2004, which was prompted by the Prestige oil spill in 2002, assigned the Agency a number of new tasks, primarily in relation to vigilance and prevention of pollution. This amendment also took into account developments in EU competences in relation to maritime security.

2.8   Under the second revision, the Agency was also asked to provide technical assistance with the inspections that the Commission was required to conduct under Regulation 725/2004 in order to improve ship and port facility security.

2.9   EMSA was also asked to support the Commission in assessing seafarer certification procedures and training establishments in both EU and non-EU countries. This relates to standards of training, certification and watchkeeping laid down in the STCW Convention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

2.10   The third amendment came in 2006 with Regulation 2038/2006. This provided EMSA with a financial framework of EUR 154 million for pollution response activities for the period 2007-2013.

2.11   Developments in the sphere are ongoing. The present proposal for an amendment (the fourth) to Regulation 1406/2002 is necessary to enable EMSA to continue operating effectively and efficiently.

2.12   The objective of the Commission's proposed amendment is, on the one hand, to clarify the existing tasks and role of EMSA and, on the other, to extend its tasks to new areas that are emerging at international and/or EU level.

2.13   EMSA's current activities include providing the Member States and the Commission with technical and scientific assistance in order to help the Member States to properly apply Community legislation in the field of maritime safety, maritime security and prevention of pollution by ships, to monitor the implementation of this legislation and to evaluate the effectiveness of measures in place and assist in developing new measures.

2.14   In its Communication Strategic goals and recommendations for the EU's maritime transport policy until 2018, the Commission stated its intention to revise the mandate and functioning of EMSA so as to further enhance the technical and scientific assistance it can provide to the Member States and the Commission.

2.15   In its conclusions of 30 March 2009, the Council invited the Commission to develop measures in anticipation of upcoming challenges that would make it possible to enhance EMSA's work of providing technical and scientific assistance to the Member States and the Commission.

2.16   At the request of the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission looked into the matter and reached the conclusion that synergies at EU level in coastguard operations could be reinforced through EMSA's activities. This could be done by extending EMSA's tasks in selected areas, in particular the monitoring of maritime traffic and shipping routes as well as assistance to Member States in tracking possible polluters.

2.17   As provided for in Regulation 1406/2002, in 2007 EMSA's Administrative Board commissioned an independent external evaluation on the implementation of the regulation. The report produced from that evaluation noted that there was scope for improvements and clarifications in some areas, but concluded overall that the Agency provides added value for the sector generally – and for two of its most important stakeholders, the Member States and the Commission, in particular.

3.   General comments

3.1   In previous opinions (1)  (2) the EESC has emphasised the crucial role played by EMSA in improving maritime safety in the Member States. In view of ongoing developments in the sphere of maritime safety and the contingent need for inspections and response to pollution, the EESC believes it is very important for EMSA's tasks and competences to be extended.

3.2   The proposed broadening of its remit concerns, among other things, the following: assistance provided by ESMA in international organisations such as the IMO; the role of operational services such as SafeSeaNet that contribute to the integrated maritime policy and to making systems interoperable; providing a response to maritime pollution caused by offshore exploration operations; technical cooperation with non-EU countries; and assisting the Commission with security-related inspections.

3.3   The main basis for amending the regulation is principally the third maritime safety package, as well as the new areas included in EMSA's 2010-2014 five-year strategy and the recommendations of EMSA's Administrative Board further to the external evaluation of the Agency.

3.4   EMSA's tasks should be delineated more clearly and precisely as regards the assistance it is required to provide to the Commission and the Member States, especially in the context of new developments such as the third maritime safety package, the EU's integrated maritime policy, maritime surveillance and the feasibility of a European coastguard service.

3.4.1   The Committee is surprised at the sudden mention of inland waterways in Article 2(2)(d). No other reference is made to inland waterways, either in the relevant existing legislation, which, as the title indicates, addresses maritime issues only, or in the explanatory memorandum, impact assessment or recitals of the current amendment. There is no mention at all of the reasons and justification for including inland waterways, the scope of this addition, the technical requirements involved and how the different sea and inland waterways policies, as well as the completely different governance and management arrangements at national and international level, are to be addressed. For these reasons alone, not to mention the essential fact that separate vessel traffic services have already been set up for these two transport modes because they are very different in nature, the reference to inland waterways should be dropped.

3.4.2   The EESC can certainly conceive of there being a legal basis, and thus also budgetary scope, as soon as possible for the Agency to be able to assist the Commission by providing relevant and specified knowledge and expertise based on its activities in the maritime sphere, but this should then apply not just to all modes of transport, but even in other policy areas.

3.4.3   Article 2(1) sets out the fields in which the Agency is to assist the Commission. The elaborations in Article 2(2) – some of which do not specify that the assistance must fall within EMSA's remit, while others do, but with inconsistent wording – are confusing and in certain cases, for instance letter (e), unclear. The solution would be to dispense with these sections, since they are already covered in Article 2(1).

3.5   With respect to the proportionality principle, the Committee endorses the recommendation to bring the regulation more into line with European legislation under the third maritime safety package. However, it points out that, in certain respects, the proposal anticipates the role EMSA could play in the future, for instance in setting up regional centres, whereas no decision has been taken about this yet.

4.   Specific comments

4.1   As regards governance, the Committee notes that the proposal points to the need to clarify the roles of EMSA, the Commission, the Member States and the Administrative Board specifically in relation to the organisation of inspections.

4.2   Indeed, representatives of the Member States on the Administrative Board face a potential conflict of interests: on the one hand, they have to take decisions about the activities and resources of EMSA, in particular inspection policy, and, on the other, they represent the national authorities, which themselves are subject to inspections by EMSA on behalf of the Commission to check the consistency of national legislation and practice with EU law.

4.3   The EESC therefore endorses the revision of Article 3 with respect to EMSA inspections and the Commission's proposal to follow the example of the European Aviation Safety Authority when establishing EMSA's operational working methods for inspections (comitology procedure).

4.4   The advantage of this is that it involves all the interested parties (EMSA, the Commission and the Member States), while respecting the established institutional roles and responsibilities of each.

4.5   The Committee also considers that attention should be paid in this context to the living and working conditions of seafarers, particularly in relation to implementation of the ILO's Maritime Labour Convention and obviously only in so far as EMSA's remit is concerned.

4.6   The EESC wishes to make an observation on the amendment to Article 5(3). The proposed change implies that the regional centres that are to be set up will not deal solely with issues of vessel traffic monitoring and maritime transport. The EESC cautions that operations can only be efficient if clear agreements exist between the Member States and EMSA about who is responsible and competent for what.

4.7   The changes in Article 10 to 19 relate mainly to EMSA's constituent bodies – either already in place or still to be established – their responsibilities and competences, increases in human resources and sources of funding.

4.8   The EESC believes that, wherever EMSA has a proven track record of generating added value, it should, in future too, be given the means to carry out its current and new tasks as it should. Any restrictions on human and financial resources, so that the number of tasks EMSA can perform is reduced, should always be weighed against the negative consequences this would have in terms of activities not carried out.

4.9   Finally, the EESC agrees with the recommendation made by the Administrative Board of EMSA to have an external evaluation of the Agency's operations carried out at regular intervals by an independent body.

Brussels, 16 February 2011.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Staffan NILSSON


(1)  OJ C 28, 3.2.2006, p. 16.

(2)  OJ C 108, 30.4.2004, p. 52.


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