Passenger ship safety: Council stance on two sets of rules

On 1 December 2016 the Council adopted a general approach on two proposals to update and revise common rules on the safety of passenger ships. The draft amending directive on passenger ship safety rules and standards contains the most extensive rules on passenger ship safety in the EU. The draft directive on inspections of ro-ro ferries and high-speed craft addresses the particular safety risks of these vessels.

The revision aims to simplify the rules and cut administrative costs, while at the same time making travelling by sea safer. The proposals were presented by the Commission in June 2016 following a comprehensive review of passenger ship safety.

“Passenger ship safety is of paramount importance. Today we have agreed to detailed technical rules on passenger ship safety to keep the safety level high, whilst simplifying their application and improving inspections. And national authorities will take back oversight over ships where it makes more sense due to local operating conditions. I hope our shared commitment to improved passenger ship safety will translate into a fast agreement with the European Parliament.”

Arpád Érsek, Slovak Minister for Transport, Construction and Regional Development and Chair of the Council

The ‘general’ directive on passenger ship safety rules and standards sets out detailed technical requirements which vessels must respect in areas such as construction, stability and fire protection. It applies to ships made of steel or equivalent material, and thus covers most modern passenger ships. The revision clarifies and simplifies these rules and standards so that they are easier to update, monitor and enforce. For example, it leaves small ships under 24 metres to be regulated at national level, reflecting the fact that these ships are more sensitive to local operating conditions and present a lower risk in general.

The current directive on surveys for ro-ro ferries and high-speed craft provides for different types of inspections for these vessels. The new rules will create a streamlined but robust inspection regime that will eliminate overlaps, reduce the administrative burden for ship owners and increase the time during which the ship can be commercially exploited. At the same time, they rationalise the inspection efforts of member states’ authorities, while continuing to ensure a high common level of safety.

The general approaches are the Council’s position for talks with the European Parliament. Both institutions must agree on the texts before they can enter into force.