Government outlines its position on the maritime transport package
On 24 August 2023, the Government submitted Union communications to Parliament on the European Commission's proposals for amendments to the so-called maritime transport package.
The Commission's maritime transport package of 1 June 2023 consists of five proposals. The objective of the maritime transport package is to ensure that the EU's maritime sector functions appropriately and achieves its objectives. Together, the proposals aim to promote the efficiency, sustainability and safety of maritime traffic and transport.
The Cabinet is in favour of the objectives of the maritime transport package. The Government welcomes that the additional funding required by the proposals could be handled through reallocation. The proposed implementation period for the amendments is considered short.
On 19 June 2023, the Government submitted a report to Parliament on the Directive establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector in the form of an E-letter.
1. Amendments to the Directive on Flag States to be supported, more detail needed to requirements and criteria
The aim of the revision of the Directive on compliance with Flag State requirements, the so-called Directive on Flag States, is to update and improve EU legislation in manner that will increase safety and prevent pollution from EU vessels. The amendments to the Directive take into account changes that have taken place in both international regulation and technology.
The Commission proposal incorporates into EU law those parts of the IMO Instruments Implementation Code that are relevant to the flag State. The aim is to align the EU's obligations with international regulations.
As a rule, the Government supports the proposed changes. The Government feels that the requirements concerning ship inspections and the criteria for assessing the resources required by the flag state should be specified in further preparation.
2. Harmonisation of international regulation welcomed under port state control
The Port State Control Directive regulates controls provides on inspections related to supervision. The proposal aims to improve regulation by harmonising it with international regulation, so that Member States' obligations in the EU and globally do not conflict with one another. In addition, the Commission proposes that the directive be extended so it applies to fishing vessels over 24 metres in length. The control system would be voluntary for these vessels.
The Government supports the proposal's objective of harmonising international regulation and extending its scope to fishing vessels over 24 metres in length. In addition, the Government is in favour of increasing the flexibility of the Member States’ inspection obligation, introducing lists describing the performance of vessels and introducing electronic certificates.
3. The Government supports the update of the European Maritime Safety Agency’s role
The Commission proposes the repeal of the Regulation establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency, which would be replaced by a new Regulation on establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency, the EMSA Regulation. The EMSA, established in 2002, aims to ensure a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety in the EU. In addition, the EMSA's specific objective is to support the European Commission and Member States in the application and monitoring of EU maritime safety legislation.
The proposal seeks to update the mandate of EMSA to reflect changes in the maritime environment. In addition, the proposal seeks to take into consideration the new tasks brought about by the amendments to the maritime transport package.
The Government states that the update of the Regulation will require that the EMSA is given an adequate mandate and resources to carry out new tasks. The Government believes it would be appropriate to expand the role of the EMSA as a producer, analyst and distributor of information.
4. The Government supports the expansion of environmental regulation in maritime transport
The aim of the proposed amendment to the Directive on ship source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringement is to improve the protection of the marine environment. The directive provides on penalties for ship-source pollution and pollution offences. The proposal would extend the scope of the directive to all ship emissions into waters, which are among the emissions prohibited by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
The proposal also includes a partial ban on emissions of residues from exhaust gas cleaning systems, or so-called scrubbers. The emissions prohibition would apply to substances and sludges separated from the washing waters of scrubbers and to washing waters that do not meet the emission criteria for harmful substances set out in the IMO recommendation. The release of so-called open-circulation washing waters would thus continue to be permitted if they meet the emission criteria laid down in the IMO recommendation.
The proposal also seeks to improve the effectiveness of the directive’s sanction system. The implementation of the directive would be enhanced, for example, by intensifying cooperation between the authorities in the Member States and by developing information systems.
The Government supports the expansion of the regulation on ship emissions and the prohibition on emissions of scrubber residues. The Government is also in favour of the objectives of the proposals concerning administrative penalties, but the criteria to be taken into account in the imposition of sanctions should primarily be laid down in a directive. The Government considers it essential to avoid overlapping administrative and criminal sanctions.
On 24 August 2023, the Government submitted Union communications on the matter to Parliament. The communications will be discussed in the Grand Committee, to which the relevant special committees will give their opinions.
Proposals for amendments to the Flag State and Port State Control Directives were discussed in the EU Maritime Working Group on 26 July 2023 and discussion will continue in September 2023. Based on current information, the processing of the Directive on ship source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements in the EU will begin in late autumn. Discussion on the EMSA regulation will likely take place last the end of 2023.
Katja Viertävä, Senior Government Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 612, katja.viertava(at)gov.fi (Directive on Flag States, Port State Control, European Maritime Safety Agency)
Niina Honkasalo, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 027, niina.honkasalo(at)gov.fi (Directive on ship source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements)