GREATER co-operation between Europe’s three separate port state control regimes has been kick-started by the European Commission’s High Level Group, chaired by former transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens.
Maritime safety has been made a priority by the newly established group, which deals with transport connections between the EU and neighbouring countries.
The expansion and aligning of port state control Europe-wide was the first subject on its agenda.
At a meeting earlier this month, representatives of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on port state control and counterparts from the Mediterranean and Black Sea MoUs gave the thumbs up for co-operation.
According to a draft basis for the joint effort, all sides have subscribed to the idea of mutually recognising inspections between the regional MoUs “on the basis of a level playing field”.
Officials at the 19-member Paris MoU, held up by Brussels as an example to be followed by other regions, are keen on closer relations but have emphasised extra funding will have to come from Brussels.
In the past, representatives of the Mediterranean MoU have complained of being treated arrogantly by counterparts in western Europe. The sudden outbreak of harmony may have been partly triggered by new EU members Malta and Cyprus joining the Paris MoU as co-operating members, with prospects for full membership next year.
Ultimately, it is expected that a clean inspection of a ship in one European port will amount to a passport for the vessel, in routine circumstances, to avoid duplicate inspections by other European PSC regimes.
Currently, ships may be exposed to a second or even third inspection within days of each other.
However, full harmonisation is not expected to be feasible for some time. The two junior MoUs have been asked to focus their inspections on substandard ships that are not subject to regular control at Paris MoU ports and to recognise Paris MoU inspections, although reciprocity will lie in the future.
They have also been asked to introduce a system for banning repeat offenders, although none of the steps is likely to be taken before separate meetings of the two regimes next spring in Istanbul.