Negotiations resume on additional tasks for EMSA
By Anne Eckstein | Tuesday 10 April 2012
The extent of the additional tasks to be assigned to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be at the heart of the informal negotiations by Council, European Commission and European Parliament representatives, on 12 April. The aim of the three-way talks is to find common ground on the remaining differences of opinion: the agency’s powers of intervention in terms of preventing pollution by offshore installations, the fight against piracy and Parliament’s participation in decisions on the EMSA’s future strategy.
The draft regulation under discussion amends the 2002 text (Regulation EC 1406/2002, which set up the agency)
(1) by clarifying the tasks and roles currently assumed by the EMSA and by extending its scope of activity to new areas.
In its general approach of June 2011, the Council enlarges the agency’s powers to enable it to intervene, at the request of member states, to deal with pollution caused by oil or gas installations, and not just ship-source pollution as under the existing regulation. The EMSA will also be asked to contribute to other EU policies and projects related to its area of competence, such as the motorways of the sea and the European maritime transport area without borders. It will also provide assistance for technical work in international and regional organisations, and cooperation with neighbouring countries will be enhanced.
The Council also establishes a clear distinction between the agency’s core and ancillary tasks. The first are strictly linked to its core business, namely maritime safety and prevention of and response to marine oil pollution. Ancillary tasks will be entrusted to the agency only on condition they provide real added value without duplicating work undertaken elsewhere, and do not infringe on member states’ rights and obligations. These tasks relate to environmental issues such as: 1. greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and the environmental status of marine waters; 2. development of an information-sharing system; 3. specific tasks related to inland waterway transport, namely inspecting classification societies for inland waterway vessels and exploring the possibility of interlinking maritime and inland waterway information systems, or to other EU policies.
EP INSISTS ON PREVENTION
Members of the European Parliament agree on the aim of giving the EMSA the power to intervene in cases of pollution caused by offshore oil and gas installations, whereas its pollution response ships can only go into action today to fight ship-source pollution. Their opinion (adopted at first reading, on 15 December 2011) goes further, however, calling for the EMSA to be able to act upstream, at the stage of the drafting of rules for the approval of such activities and the assessment of member states’ emergency plans. In other words, the EP would like to see the agency empowered to act at the level of prevention. The Commission and member states reject this approach, arguing that the agency does not have the necessary competences.
The EP also calls for the EMSA to be able to take action to combat piracy. Here, too, the member states have misgivings and point out that this is not foreseen in the agency’s statutes. Certain states seem willing to consider it, however, but this would still require a definition of just what such tasks would imply and their limits. MEPs also wish to strengthen the agency’s competences in the area of training, but apparently this point was resolved just ahead of the three-way discussion.
Two points related to governance still need to be settled: the procedure for appointment of the agency’s director and the EP’s participation in decisions on the EMSA’s strategy and policy.
The aim of the three-way talks is to find common ground on the remaining differences of opinion(1) COM(2010)0611