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Maritime safety: European Maritime Safety Agency



Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency


  • This regulation sets up the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which seeks to ensure a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety and maritime security in the European Union (EU) and is based in Lisbon.
  • EMSA also works to prevent pollution and respond to pollution caused by ships or by oil and gas installations and provides technical assistance and support to the European Commission and EU Member States in developing, applying and evaluating EU law on maritime safety, security and pollution.


EMSA has core and support tasks.

Core tasks

  • Assistance in the preparatory work for updating and developing relevant EU laws.
  • Visits and inspections in the Member States to ensure the effective implementation of relevant binding EU legal acts.
  • Training activities and technical assistance for national administrations.
  • Supporting pollution response actions in cases of pollution caused by ships and oil and gas installations (EMSA provides operational assistance only on the request of the affected country).

EMSA also operates the European Union Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships Data Centre and the EU’s maritime information and exchange system (SafeSeaNet). The agency may also provide operational support concerning investigations where there have been deaths or serious injuries.

Support tasks

EMSA only assumes these tasks if they create substantial added value, avoid duplication of effort and do not infringe on Member States’ rights and obligations. These tasks relate to environmental matters, the global monitoring for environment and security programme (now Copernicus) and inland waterways.

EMSA visits and inspections

EMSA visits Member States to assist the Commission and national administrations in:

  • checking whether EU rules are being implemented effectively;
  • ensuring a high and uniform level of safety. The agency carries out inspections with classification societies, as well as in non-EU countries regarding the training and certification of seafarers.


  • EMSA is an EU body and has legal personality. Its staff consists of officials recruited by the agency and EU officials and Member States’ civil servants temporarily assigned or seconded to the agency. It is headed by an executive director who is completely independent in the performance of his/her duties.
  • Its administrative board comprises representatives from the Commission and each Member State, all of whom have a vote. It also includes representatives from Iceland and Norway, and professionals from four maritime sectors, none of whom can vote. Its term of office is 5 years and is renewable once.

Relationship between EMSA and the European Border and Coast Guard

  • Regulation (EU) 2016/1624, later replaced and repealed by Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 (see summary), set up a European Border and Coast Guard to ensure the effective implementation of integrated border management at the EU’s external borders, as well as those of the Schengen associate countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).
  • Regulation (EU) 2016/1625 amends Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 to strengthen the cooperation between the EMSA, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the European Fisheries Control Agency (set up under Regulation (EU) 2019/473) and the national authorities carrying out coastguard functions, to increase maritime situational awareness and to support coherent and cost-efficient action. This involves:
    • sharing information available in ship reporting systems and other information systems;
    • providing surveillance and communication services;
    • building capacity and establishing best practices, and training and exchanging staff;
    • sharing information and cooperation on coastguard functions, including by analysing operational challenges and emerging risks in the maritime domain;
    • sharing capacity by planning and implementing multipurpose operations and by sharing assets and other capabilities.


It has applied since 25 August 2002.


  • Two accidents (the Erika in 1999 and the Prestige in 2002) resulted in serious oil spills in European waters. Both caused severe environmental and economic damage to the French and Spanish coasts. This prompted the creation of EMSA in 2003 to ensure that Europe is prepared for large-scale oil spills.
  • For further information, see:


Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (OJ L 208, 5.8.2002, pp. 1–9).

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624 (OJ L 295, 14.11.2019, pp. 1–131).

Regulation (EU) 2019/473 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2019 on the European Fisheries Control Agency (OJ L 83, 25.3.2019, pp. 18–37).

Directive 2009/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on port State control (OJ L 131, 28.5.2009, pp. 57–100).

See consolidated version.

Directive 2005/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements (OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, pp. 11–21).

See consolidated version.

Directive 2002/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2002 establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring and information system and repealing Council Directive 93/75/EEC (OJ L 208, 5.8.2002, pp. 10–27).

See consolidated version.

last update 03.11.2021