The European Commission proposed a range of measures on Wednesday aimed at improving shipping safety standards, including the creation of a European Maritime Safety Agency
"With these proposals ... we will be able to guarantee a European level of maritime safety in the future," an EU Transport official said.
In addition to the new agency, which would check that ship inspection standards were being respected throughout the EU, the Commission proposed a new oil spill compensation fund
, compulsory "black box" ship data recorders and stronger powers for national coastal authorities.
The package of measures is the second set of proposed EU legislation on shipping safety since the Erika oil tanker
ran aground off northern France
one year ago.
France has made maritime safety one of the priorities of its six-month stint at the helm of the EU and will ask EU leaders to discuss the proposals on Friday at their summit in Nice.
The first package of measures - new rules on phasing out single-hull tankers, tightening ship inspection standards and supervising ship classification societies - is in an advanced stage in the EU's legislative process.
Reportedly named Erika II
, the package announced on Wednesday would set up a one billion euros ($885 million) fund to provide compensation for damage caused by oil spills
The fund, which would be managed by the European Commission would
be created through a new charge on importers of crude or heavy fuel oil
The EU fund would be used for amounts above the 200 million euro ($178.3 million) threshold currently available through the International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (FIPOL).
Unlimited liability would apply in cases where serious neglect could be proven, the EU official said.
Also under the new proposals, which will affect all types of merchant shipping, not just tankers, EU ports would not allow ships to set sail in extreme weather conditions.