The European Union has released new operational guidelines for ships in need of assistance at the Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas (SEARICA) Intergroup meeting in European Parliament.
The guidelines were developed by a committee comprising of Member States’ competent authorities with additional support from industry stakeholders.
It aims to promote better integration and coordination among the maritime authorities involved in response to an incident concerning a ship in need of assistance.
The step is deemed as a preventive measure after the MSC Flaminia fiasco incident, which occurred in July 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean.
The German-flagged container vessel was damaged due to an explosion and a fire on board.
As a response to the emergency, the ship was accommodated in a place of refuge in Germany in September 2012 after port access was denied by nearly every possible EU country.
Maritime transport commissioner Bulc said: "It is a good example of proactive implementation of EU legislation, building on best practises and sharing experience, which is fully in line with President Juncker’s strategic approach to better regulation."
Supported by the European Maritime Safety Agency, the new guidelines envisage adherence to the regulations to promote safety and security at sea and of the marine and coastal environment.
The guidelines state: "Each state involved in the operation should examine their ability to provide a place of refuge.
"A place of refuge request cannot be refused for commercial or financial reasons, nor should commercial interests become the main driver for the handling of policy, organisation and rules (PoR) requests, or the selection of a potential PoR unless deemed unsafe, there should be no rejection without inspection."
The involved authorities had pledged integrated support to promote an effective operational response on some of the key principles which include using of POR Guidelines in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO); including the EU Operational Guidelines in regional agreements / plans; promoting the usage of the Union Maritime Information and Exchange System providing integrated maritime services.
The guidelines include offering training, with the support of the European Maritime Safety Agency, on the Operational Guidelines and devising risk assessment methodologies.
Image: Officials during PoR declaration. Photo: courtesy of European Commission.