EC Notes Safety Progress, Highlights Needed Improvement
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some EU Member States are struggling to meet their commitment to ratify international maritime conventions, according to a European Commission report (EC) on compliance with flag state requirements.

Vice-President Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, said, "I am heartened that most coastal Member States are taking their obligations seriously as flag states. However, I am particularly concerned to ensure that, for our seafarers, every Member State, as a flag state, has ratified and put in place the common standards for living and working conditions on board set out in the international Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, especially as these have been agreed between the social partners at European level and recently enforced through EU law."

Current EU rules promote maritime safety and set a high standard for EU flag states by requiring them to undergo a peer review of their maritime administration and develop and implement a certified quality management system for their operations. Portugal, Ireland and all landlocked flag states except Luxembourg have failed to do so.

Despite good progress for many EU flag states, Bulgaria and Slovakia remain on the grey list of flag states in terms of the number of their ships detained, or the number of deficiencies detected on board, whilst being checked when in port. This means that the ships under these flags are not yet in the low risk ("white list") category — hence they need to be checked more often.

Member States should increase their efforts to ratify and apply the Maritime Labor Convention on living and working conditions of seafarers and the newly adopted EU rules on compliance with and enforcement of the convention.

Under the current EU legislation on compliance with flag state requirements, EU Member States are required to undergo the International Maritime Organization's voluntary audit scheme set up in 2006: a peer review by other flag state experts. To date Portugal and the EU land-locked flag states of Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have failed to ask for such an audit. Equally, a further independent quality check on EU flag state systems and procedures is provided by a certified quality management system requirement which should have been in place by June 17, 2012. Portugal and Ireland — along with the EU land-locked flag States of Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia — have yet to start this process, while four other EU flag states (Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovenia) have indicated they will have such a system in place by the end of 2013.

The PMOU black, grey and white list
The secretariat of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (PMOU) on port state control, publishes an annual report in which they place flag states appear on a black, grey or white list depending on the detention and deficiency rates for ships under their flag. Over the past four years, of the original seven EU flag states on the black or grey lists (Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia, plus Bulgaria and Romania), only two (Bulgaria and Slovakia) remain on the grey list. Directive 2009/21/EC requires those on the black/grey lists to identify the reasons why they are on the list and to take measures to rectify this situation. Considerable progress has been made over a short space of time and now, six out of the 10 top flag states on the white list are EU Member States.

International conventions

In December 2008, all EU Member States committed themselves to ratify a certain number of international conventions by January 1, 2013. While progress has been made, the majority have yet to ratify Conventions dating from 2007 onwards, such as the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention 2007. Only 14 Member States have ratified the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 on seafarer living and working conditions. To ensure this major convention is properly enforced, EU rules have just been adopted for compliance with and enforcement of the convention. Therefore ratification of the basic legal instrument is urgent.

Next steps
The Commission will reflect on further measures to ensure EU Member States effectively and consistently discharge their obligations as flag states, including possible infringement proceedings.

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