France: European Maritime Safety And Oil Pollution Prevention

Last Updated: 1 June 2001

Co-written by Elisabeth Prigent

The "ERIKA" disaster on 12th December 2000, and the subsequent pollution of the French coast line by heavy oil, has resulted in the resurgence of the issues concerning maritime transports security in the European Union.

After the AMOCO-CADIX event in 1978, and further major maritime accidents (two wrecks of oil-tankers in 1993, and the accident of the passenger car ferry ESTONIA in 1994), a first set of laws relating to maritime security and oil pollution prevention was implemented. Those laws aimed to apply more strictly the rules already existing as a result of international conventions concerning ship safety, the prevention of the pollution by ships, the professional qualification of the crew, the work conditions on board and the security of the passenger ships and of the cargo carriage.

The ERIKA accident has shown that the European regulations were not strict enough, and that notwithstanding these rules, substandard vessels, managed by unqualified crews continue to approach the European coasts while carrying dangerous cargoes.

The European Parliament and the European Council have voted a first series of measures, commonly called "Erika 1", concerning the reinforcement of the Port State Control, the increase of liability of the classification societies, and the timetable for the substitution of transportation sector single-hull tankers vessels by double-hull tankers vessels. Another series of measures ("Erika 2") which are still under discussion could lead to an increased supervision of the maritime traffic off the European coasts, a better indemnification of the pollution damages on the littoral, and to the creation of a European Maritime Security Agency.

I . "Erika 1"

A . The Port State Control

A substantial modification was made to the existing European directive concerning port State control of vessels. The main elements of this reform concern :

  • the implementation of a compulsory and more strict survey of certain categories of ships. A specific and strict procedure for control is organised by the European directive. Firstly, a determination is made as to which ships are considered "potentially dangerous" (10 years old citern ships carrying gas or chemicals, 12 years old bulk carriers, 15 years old single-hull oil-tanker, 15 years old passenger vessels). These are then submitted to a strict and reinforced survey in the first European port visited after a period of 12 months following the last reinforced survey carried out in another European State port.

The new text also provides that the operator of any "potentially dangerous" vessel shall notify all relevant information concerning the ship and the cargo to the authorities of the European port of arrival, at the latest two days before the expected date of arrival.

  • the ban of certain categories of substandard ships coming from an open register. This regulation is aimed at the same kind of ships at above which are considered "potentially dangerous". The port authorities can refuse the access to those vessels if (i) they have been arrested twice during the past 24 months in a State which is a party to the "Paris MOU", and if they are registered in a State listed on the "black list" (edited in the annual report of the Paris MOU), or (ii) if they have been arrested once during the past 36 months in one State which is a party to the "Paris MOU", and they are registered in a State listed on the black list as "high risk".

In order to undertake these harmonized controls at the European Union level, a global information system was set up. Each European coastal State is called upon to publish on a quarterly basis information on the vessels which were arrested by it during the past 3 months. The data is then made available on the EQUASIS data base. All the information contained in the data base gives a measuring rod which permits to identify those vessels which need to be surveyed in priority through a system of points on the basis of various criteria such as age, flag, former arrests, etc.

B . Increase Of The Control And Of The Responsibility Of The Classification Societies

Many States delegate a large part of their verification powers to the classification societies. This is especially true in respect of structural aspects of ship, and ship conformity with the international conventions. The existing European directive concerning classification societies was modified on three fronts:

  • Firstly, the Commission shall extend its control to classification societies. The classification societies shall have to provide the authorities with various information concerning the vessels registered with them. This aims at controlling any potential "class hoping".
  • Secondly, the EU shall also exercise control over the performance of classification societies, by publishing statistics : the societies which give their consent to substandard or frequently arrested ships shall be penalized. The Commission shall even be entitled to withdraw their professional accreditation, following a review of their activities. The withdrawal of habilitation may be temporary or permanent.
  • The financial liability of classification societies is being put into play. This responsibility can be limited, in case of personal or material damage resulting of an act or omission by negligence or imprudence of the classification society ( limitation of up to €2,5 millions and to €5 millions respectively). However, if the damage is as a result of voluntary omission or of gross negligence then, the responsibility of the classification society shall be unlimited.

C . Timetable Of The Progressive Elimination Of The Single-Hull Vessels

The third measure aims to phase out single-hull oil-tankers according to a timetable which is similar to the US timetable, in order to permit an accelerated introduction of the double-hull oil-tankers. It is organized along the lines of the MARPOL Convention and takes into consideration elements like the tonnage of the ships, their structure and their age. Following the implementation of this timetable, the use of double-hull tankers shall be phased in for every category of oil-tanker from 2005 to 2015. Three categories have been created, each of them having a different timetable:

  • for oil-tankers whose tonnage is above 20 000 tonnes, which are not in conformity with the prescriptions of the MARPOL Convention, and which are 25 years old or more;
  • for the oil-tankers whose tonnage is above 20 000 tonnes, which are in conformity with the prescriptions of the MARPOL Convention;
  • for the oil-tankers whose tonnage is above 3000 tonnes, but below 20 000 or 30 000 tonnes;

The larger and the older tankers are to be eliminated earlier (except if they have a specific structure, such as for instance protections of the ballasts).

This overall timetable is nonetheless more agressive than the American one, in order to avoid oil-tankers considered as substandard ships in the USA to move to Europe where they would be allowed to operate. At present, the implementation of this timetable is suspended pending attempts to adopt similar measures at the international level at the IMO. If this agreement did not occur to happen the Europeans have agreed to adopt the timetable in June 2001.

II . "Erika 2"

The Commission wishes to create a net over the European territorial waters, by increasing the system of control and supervision of the ships transiting off the European coasts. The proposal of the Commission provides for a compulsory notification system concerning both the vessels calling at European ports and the vessels which simply sail in European waters. A system of automatic identification ("black box") would be mandatory on every ship navigating in European waters. Finally, no vessel would be authorized to leave a port in extreme meteorological conditions, and every European State would set up some refuge ports to receive ships in distress.

The Erika disaster has revealed that the system and the amount of indemnification for environmental pollution resulting from the IMO Conventions is insufficient. Until now, the liability of the shipowner could be limited in the case of environmental pollution, as provided in the 1992 protocols to the CLC Convention and to the Fund Convention. Notwithstanding the type of cargo or the State of the Vessel, no additional responsibility could be sought from the shipowner, charterer, or owner of dangerous cargoes.

The new regulations would hold liable for damage, any person who had caused or contributed to cause an oil pollution. In addition, any person who caused or contributed to a pollution because of its gross negligence would also be liable. The amount of the fine could depend on the attitude of the party when dealing with he aftermath of the pollution damage. This liability will extend to all players including owners, operators and even charterers or cargo owners.

The second aspect of this increase of responsibility concerns the Fund Convention. The Commission wishes to immediately raise the limits of indemnification fixed in the Fund Convention, up to one billion € (like in the USA regulation), by spreading the amounts amongst all of the parties involved in oil transportation. The Commission would also seek to set up a European Fund which would complement the Fund Convention in the event the ceiling fixed in the IMO Conventions was exceeded.

The last reform would consist in the creation of a European Maritime Security Agency, whose role would be to harmonize all of the control and supervision mechanism set up by the regulations, as well as help the Commission to ensure this application. It would collect and analyse factual or statistic data, as well as evaluate the implementation of the European regulation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions