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Document 52005AE1244

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a multiannual funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency in the field of response to pollution caused by ships and amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 (COM(2005) 210 final — 2005/0098 (COD))

OJ C 28, 3.2.2006, p. 16–18 (ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, PT, SK, SL, FI, SV)

3.2.2006   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 28/16


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a multiannual funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency in the field of response to pollution caused by ships and amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002’

(COM(2005) 210 final — 2005/0098 (COD))

(2006/C 28/03)

On 7 June 2005 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 71 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the abovementioned proposal.

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 4 October 2005. The rapporteur was Mr Chagas.

At its 421st plenary session, held on 26 and 27 October 2005 (meeting of 26 October 2005), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 124 votes with 4 abstentions.

1.   Introduction

1.1

With the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 724/2004 of 31 March amending Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the Agency was assigned new tasks in the field of oil pollution response.

1.2

The present proposal establishes procedures for Community funding of the Agency's new tasks, on the basis of a multiannual commitment to be spread over a period of seven years, from 2007 to 2013. The Commission proposes a sum of EUR 154 million to cover the necessary funding for the seven-year period.

1.3

Following the assignment of the new tasks, in October 2004 the Agency's Administrative Board adopted an Action Plan for oil pollution preparedness and response. This identifies the activities that the Agency intends to embark on within the context of the Regulation, both in terms of response to an oil spill, using specialised anti-pollution vessels, and in terms of preparedness for mounting effective response operations.

1.4

The EMSA identified four priority areas for action: the Baltic Sea, the Western approaches to the English Channel, the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean (particularly the area along the tanker trade route from the Black Sea), where the Agency intends to station chartered pollution response vessels ready to act when called upon by one or more Member States. It should be pointed out that the EMSA's role in this field will be to supplement (not to replace) national pollution response mechanisms. The Action Plan further includes additional response capacity for incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances (HNS).

1.5

The Regulation amended in 2004 requires the EMSA to provide the Commission and the Member States with technical and scientific assistance in the field of pollution response, which can be divided into three categories: information, cooperation and coordination, and operational assistance.

1.6

It is operational assistance which will require the greatest financial investment, since the Action Plan provides for the creation of a network of standby oil-recovery vessels and a Satellite Imagery Service Centre. The contracts to be concluded by EMSA to assure oil recovery assistance cover all actions and their financial consequences until the initiation of intervention following an oilspill. The costs of intervention by an oil-recovery vessel will be borne by the soliciting Member State.

1.7

As these new responsibilities are long-term, the Commission is proposing a multiannual budget which can both provide the necessary long-term investments and ensure adequate financial security, reducing expenditure in the negotiation of long-term contracts.

2.   General comments

2.1

In its opinion on the proposal assigning new tasks to the EMSA in the field of pollution response (1), the EESC welcomed the Commission's proposal and stressed the EMSA's key role in improving maritime safety in the Member States. However, it regretted the fact that several Member States were still not properly equipped to respond to major accidents like those of the Erika and Prestige.

2.2

Despite the progress made, the current situation still leaves something to be desired in some cases. Together with the Action Plan, the Agency presented an overview of Member States' oil pollution response capacities, which stated that response capacity needed to be supplemented in certain regions with additional recovery vessels and equipment.

2.3

All coastal States cannot be expected to be permanently equipped with all the resources needed to deal with major sea accidents, particularly large-scale oil spills, on their own. However, the current lack of resources has resulted in environmental damage which will have long-term consequences.

2.4

The EESC therefore supports the proposal to give the EMSA the necessary resources to supplement Member States' pollution prevention and response mechanisms upon request. However, the EESC stresses that these resources can only serve as supplements. Under no circumstances should the above financial means be taken to replace pollution prevention measures which should be established by Member States.

2.5

In particular, the EESC stresses the need for a multiannual financing programme to fund these mechanisms. This is the only way to ensure consistent programming of the EMSA's activities in this area, and to optimise use of resources by concluding contracts with a minimum term of three years for the provision of rapid response (2) vessels.

2.6

The EESC reiterates the comment made in its Opinion referred to in point 2.1, regarding the need to ensure that the owner(s) of ships chartered to carry out these tasks respect(s) the relevant Community and international legislation, in particular that governing safety conditions on ships and the living and working conditions of crew members.

2.7

As the Action Plan adopted by the Agency identifies priorities on the basis of the limited funds to be made available, the EESC is concerned that, given the current difficulties in reaching agreement on the Community budget, the funds ultimately provided might be lower than those set out in the proposed budget. This would mean selecting certain measures over others or making progress in some areas at the expense of others. The EESC cannot support this approach, since the decision by Member States to grant the Agency additional competences implies the need to ensure the necessary funding to enable it to achieve its goals in the field of maritime pollution prevention. It is essential that maritime pollution prevention and response are accorded the necessary importance at Community level too, and that they are not viewed purely from an economic perspective.

2.8

The EESC is concerned about the delays of some Member States in implementing certain measures already adopted in the field of maritime pollution prevention and response, particularly in designating places of refuge and protected areas, providing reception facilities or in strengthening their resources for effective port state control. These delays cast doubt over these countries' genuine commitment to preventing and responding to maritime pollution, despite the good intentions regularly expressed, particularly after each new major maritime accident.

2.9

Investment is also needed in aerial surveillance means and equipment for detecting and combating pollution and preventing the violation of antipollution regulations.

2.10

Satellite imagery can also be used to complement surveillance and monitoring activities. The EESC supports the Commission's plan to set up a Satellite Imagery Service Centre, to help Member States in detecting, monitoring and managing illegal discharges and accidental oil spills.

2.11

Given the high costs (3) entailed in a satellite imagery service, the EESC believes that use of resources needs to be optimised and, in particular, that the use of images needs to be coordinated between Member States; this could lead to considerable cost-savings. At the same time, there are grounds for investment to improve image-gathering in all European maritime areas, as current coverage is not genuinely comprehensive, particularly in the Mediterranean area.

2.12

The EESC also considers the planned information, cooperation and coordination measures to be very important. These will ensure more rational use of existing resources and the Agency has a fundamental role to play here.

3.   Conclusions

3.1

The EESC supports the proposal to give the EMSA the necessary resources to supplement Member States' pollution prevention and response mechanisms upon request.

3.2

The Committee regrets however that a number of Member States have not yet allocated the appropriate resources or established mechanisms of their own and asks the Commission to urge them to accelerate that process.

3.3

The EESC is concerned that, given the current difficulties in reaching an agreement on the Community budget, the funds ultimately provided might be lower than those set out in the proposed budget. The decision by Member States to give the Agency additional competences implies the need to ensure the necessary funding to enable it to achieve its goals in the field of maritime pollution prevention. It is essential that maritime pollution prevention and response are accorded the necessary importance at Community level too, and that they are not viewed purely from an economic perspective.

3.4

The Agency's role in promoting cooperation and coordination of Member States' resources and activities is fundamental for the establishment of a rational and cost effective strategy.

Brussels, 26 October 2005.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND


(1)  OJ C 108, 30.4.2004, rapporteur Mr Chagas.

(2)  ‘Rapid’ in this context means that the designated vessel can intervene within 24 hours. Usually the transformation including the installation of the necessary equipment on board takes 4-8 hours, and an additional period of 4-8 hours is needed for the vessel to arrive at the place of the accident.

(3)  The cost per image covering a territory of 500 km2 is in the range of EUR 800-1000 depending on several factors (e.g. the delay of the transmission demanded, the advance with which the contract is concluded). According to a modest estimation given by EMSA 1,000 images are needed on a yearly basis.


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