Regions want more involvement in updating rules
By Anne Eckstein | Thursday 03 May 2012
The regional and local authorities are still at the front line during shipping accidents in terms of emergency aid as well as the impact of accidents on their territory. In a declaration
(1) adopted during a seminar on maritime security organised by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) in Giglio, Italy, on 12-13 April, the regions called for their direct involvement in the work of EU and national institutions and authorities on maritime security - particularly in the development of new standards and legislation.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, president of the CPMR and the region of Brittany, reminded the seminar that the CPMR participated in the development of measures on maritime security (the Erika I, II and III packages) and also prepared proposals for a fourth Erika package, which initially focused on container ships, but whose field of application, said Le Drian, should now be extended to cover passenger transport. The European Commission, which is due to present proposals on this in 2013, has just launched a public consultation on the matter (see separate article).
There is no such thing as zero risk, but it is possible to reduce the risk of accidents and their impact. The Costa Concordia accident of 13 January could have been predicted, and was avoidable.
“The main lesson to be drawn from the sinking of the Costa Concordia is that it will no longer be possible to operate in the same way after this accident,” emphasised Enrico Rossi, president of the Tuscany region, referring to current practices in the coastal tourist cruise industry. The Mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, regretted that a decree adopted by the Italian government eight days after the Costa Concordia accident, which forbids cruise ships to come with two miles (3.7 km) of nature reserves and natural parks, was limited to certain zones - excluding the island of Giglio.
The seminar has seen more questions asked than answers provided, but suggestions have been put forward on correcting certain problems in the current system. The size of cruise ships is a problem, participants said: a fashion for ‘gigantism’ creates floating ‘towns’ (there were 4,229 people on board the Costa Concordia), which in turn creates problems in terms of risk prevention, evacuation in the case of an accident and the training of staff (captains and crews). Gigantism also raises the question of maritime security and the supervision of navigation in certain zones. To this end, the establishment of a system of checks and authorisation of sea traffic (the equivalent of the ‘flight plans’, which are required for aeroplanes) at the European and/or international level has been discussed, as well as better surveillance of this traffic (the use and coordination of satellite tools).
Furthermore, seminar participants emphasised the importance of having access to civil protection services, and experienced and well-coordinated emergency services, as well as the need to imrpove the coordination of upstream competencies and services, such as the use of information on shipping forecasts, to better regulate and control maritime traffic.
‘ONLY MASTER ON BOARD’
Regions and harbour authorities are discussing the principle of the captain being ‘the only master on board’, which allows captains to ignore orders from local and maritime authorities (see box). The regions, highlighted Le Drian, would like to limit the discretionary powers of the captain. Such a limitation could be useful on the open seas - and a comparison was drawn with air traffic, where the captain is also the only master on board - and could be discussed for areas near the coast, whether this means the route taken or the sailing of a boat whatever the weather conditions. Here, Captain Ilarionne dell’Anna (Maritime Direction of Livorno) drew attention to the accident that took place three months before the sinking of the Costa Concordia, when a cargo ship, the Venezia, set sail in spite of very bad predicted weather conditions and lost its cargo of 196 caskets of highly toxic material at sea near Livorno.
Finally, insists the CPRM, it is crucial that the question of compensation for environmental damage should be clarified at the EU and international level, and that other important issues should be addressed, such as the fight against pollution, the collection and treatment of waste and used water and above all the implementation of laws, with the CPRM calling for establishment of a sanction mechanism.
Work had hardly begun on the morning of 13 April when Sergio Ortelli called for help: a petrol tanker had stopped 200 metres off the coast. Weather conditions were bad (wind and rain), increasing the risks. The mayor of Giglio confirmed that checks were being carried out. Later in the day it emerged that the ship was not a petrol tanker after all, but a freighter carrying cereals and flying the Russian flag. It had stopped because it “had not yet decided which route to follow”. Asked to move away from the coast, the captain initially refused. However, since the maritime security seminar was taking place at the time, he not only had to deal with the harbour office of the port and the mayor of Giglio, but also with Ilarione Dell’Anna, the maritime commander of the Direction of Livorno, and Vice-Admiral Cristiano Aliperta, permanent representative for Italy at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Not convinced by the ship captain’s argument, the maritime authorities - which do not have legal powers to give orders - came on board to “strongly recommend” that he move away from the coast or submit to a detailed inspection of the ship. The captain finally obeyed, but this case illustrates the fact that even in close proximity to an ‘at risk’ area of coast, the captain is ‘the only master on board’ and takes orders from nobody - not even an admiral.
(1) The document is available at
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