ANNUAL REPORT 2006-2007
5. Maritime safety and security
Pro-active behaviour of port authorities in the field of the environment goes hand in hand with a similar attitude regarding safety of both navigation and port operations. These are typical public responsibilities of port authorities, regardless of their ownership or management structures.
ESPO has therefore adopted a constructive approach throughout the political discussion on the series of maritime safety packages that have seen the light of day since the Erika and Prestige accidents. ESPO has in particular supported proposals to install an adequate response system to deal with ships in distress seeking a place of refuge.
The amendment to the Traffic Monitoring Directive which the Commission introduced through its Third Maritime Safety Package requires Member States to set up an independent competent authority endowed with ultimate decision-making power regarding ships seeking shelter in a place or port of refuge. ESPO agrees that such a neutral entity should be established and have the possibility to overrule decisions of local authorities, including port authorities. The Commissionís proposal however omitted to foresee adequate compensation for local authorities and port authorities in case a ship in distress were to cause local damage, be it of human, environmental or economic nature. This fundamental shortcoming has meanwhile been rectified by the European Parliament thanks to a proposal of its Rapporteur Dirk Sterckx. The situation in Council is more complex, particularly because many Member States have difficulties in accepting the proposed independent competent authority.
The Commissionís Traffic Monitoring Directive has also led to the establishment of the SafeSeaNet system, a European platform for maritime data exchange between Member Statesí maritime authorities. Aim of the system, which is managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), is to prevent accidents at sea and marine pollution. It also incorporates data exchange requirements from other EU Directives such as those on port reception facilities for shipís waste and Port State Control inspections in EU ports.
Port authorities contribute to the well-functioning of SafeSeaNet. Still, it seems that a considerable number of seaports experience a clear lack of communication with the national competent authority and are not sufficiently informed about the developments of the system and the points of discussion at EU level by the national competent authority. In some Member States furthermore little consideration is given as to how the required information would have to be delivered by port authorities.
ESPO has therefore urged both the Commission and EMSA to pay more attention to cost-effectiveness, technical feasibility, actual need and end benefit of the system as well as to the detailed input data requirements.
In the related field of port security, things have moved from the terminal level to that of the port area as such. By June 2007, Member States have to implement the port security Directive, which introduces ISPS-type measures for the overall port area. ESPO is closely following the implementation process, which so far does not seem to raise substantial problems. Key principle is that measures, be they applied to the port perimeter or specific equipment and installations within the port area, should be risk-based. This implies that ports should - at low risk level - remain generally accessible. This is also important for the public image of ports as discussed above.
What remains an issue is who pays for security measures. An Eucommissioned study has confirmed that port security measures are typical public authority tasks and that public funding would therefore fall outside the scope of State aid rules. Be that as it may, very few Member States seem prepared to provide the necessary budgets. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where the Federal Government has been releasing security funds for ports year after year.
With the ISPS Code and the port security Directive firmly in place, ESPO believes that Europe should now fully concentrate its security efforts on other parts of the supply chain. This is why ESPO has for instance resisted that ports would be included under the EUís critical infrastructure initiative, a totally superfluous exercise given the existence of the port security Directive which covers all relevant European ports.
Paradoxically enough, the past year has seen the temporary withdrawal of the Commissionís proposed Regulation on supply chain security following pressure from the European Parliament. Although it was a logical complement to the security measures which apply to seaports and maritime transport, the fierce resistance of land-based transport modes have stranded the proposal, leaving the port and shipping industry as the only European transport sectors with an adequate security system.
It remains to be seen whether this was a wise decision. Although the draft Regulation was not perfect, it at least introduced the principle that the only effective security system is one which involves the entire supply chain, from factory to end user. This would be in the interest of ports, allowing more efficient operations and more targeted inspections. ESPO believes that appropriate basic security measures should be applicable to all operators in the supply chain. The main weakness of the draft Regulation was that it introduced a voluntary scheme which does not force weaker parts of the chain to participate.
The Commission will now wait with further measures until the related concept of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) developed by DG TAXUD will become reality. The first AEO certificates will be granted to reliable economic operators as of 1 January 2008.
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