Shipmasters have always felt the necessity to associate themselves. This has to
do with the special conditions in which the shipmaster has to carry out his
profession. Responsibilities form the major part of his duties and on many
occasions, he is on his own. These special conditions have given the shipmaster
the need to consult colleagues and be assisted when in difficult circumstances.
At first all over Europe and later in the rest of the world, many shipmasters'
associations were initiated. In the nineteen-seventies the initiative was taken to
unite these associations into a worldwide organisation to be able to assist each
other on a global basis. The International Federation of Shipmasters'
Associations (IFSMA) developed itself into a solid worldwide organisation with
a Non Governemental Organisation (NGO) status at the IMO.
IFSMA harboured a number of associations from European Union nations
with a strong feeling for a European wide maritime policy. The voice of a united
Europa in maritime affairs should be heard in the world. In IFSMA a working
group for European affairs was initiated with a budget that enabled IFSMA
representatives to visit Brussels and bring forward maritime matters to the
attention of the European Commission and Parliament.
During an Annual General Assembly in London in 1995, the Board of IFSMA
questioned the necessity of a European working group on the grounds that there
was little or no interest in Brussels for global maritime affairs and that funds
could better be used elsewhere. Three shipmasters' associations from EU
nations with a long maritime tradition, France, Germany and The Netherlands
had another opinion and decided, a few months later, to initiate their own
Confederation of European Shipmasters' Associations (CESMA). The
Secretariat was set up in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and soon afterwards
associations from Belgium, Italy, Spain, Ireland and in a later stage Slovenia
joined the Confederation.
At first, little progress was made due to the influence of maritime trade unions
which, so far, had never met any competition during their representation of
seafarers in European fora and Brussels. At first this reluctance was felt rather
strongly until there was some kind of realisation that CESMA mainly targets on
other interests than trade unions. CESMA applies convinction rather than power.
Professionalism and support for shipmaster members are high on the CESMA
agenda and embedded in its Statutes.
In 1997, the tanker "Erika" went down and a huge environmental catastrophe
developed on the coasts of France. The damage for the coastal population was
enormous and politicians, local and in French Parliament, suddenly realised the
importance of the maritime traffic along their coasts and the necessity to
maintain a good standard of maritime safety. These strong feelings were
immediately exported to the European Parliament and the European
Commission was strongly urged to act. France had acted by itself by arresting
and imprisoning the master of the "Erika". Suddenly Europe was interested in
maritime affairs and seafarers were considered criminals for polluting the
environment. All of a sudden CESMA proved the importance of its existence.
Representatives of AFCAN in France were able to advise the public through the
media of the actual and true facts and action was started to obtain release for the
master of the "Erika". Through publications, all over Europe, CESMA managed
to obtain the attention of the public. We managed to bring the message to
several fora, including the European Parliament.
An important issue became the imprisonment without trial of the Master of the
"Erika" and it started the discussion on criminilisation of the seafarer and the
shipmaster in particular. Then came the "Prestige" and the "Tasman Spirit" and
the issue became even more serious. Many newspaper articles and symposia
have been dedicated to solving this issue which is threatening the entire
maritime profession and even the industry. In fact, for vicitims of pollution it is
the only thing left, using the shipmaster as a scapegoat. International legislation
such as MARPOL and UNCLOS has shown to be hardly efficient to provide a
cover against wide-spread pollution. It is not only "Erika" and "Prestige". It is
the widespread oldfashioned opinion that the sea is a kind of garbage can,
available for people who do not care. The IMO Convention has shown not to be
able to manage this phenomenon. The legislation is a typical example of a
compromise and a compromise is seldom perfect. In the new directive, recently
issued by the European Parliament, anti-pollution laws are somewhat more
stringent. We were ensured by the rapporteur on the Directive that the new
legislation was not directly aimed at the responsible seafarer. It was directed at
the entire maritime industry to make them more aware of the consequences of
intentional and in some cases un-intentional pollution. In many cases this
concerns economic incentives rather than mistakes. Discharging of oil
contaminated residues and even ship's garbage in a number of ports in the EU is
still a costly or impossible affair. Again, in this case, the European Commission
could work as a sort of catalyst for the IMO to install a more effective
legislation to prevent all kinds of marine pollution.
We made clear the position of the responsible seafarer, the shipmaster, during
our recent visit to EU Transport Commissioner J. Barrot. We asked him and the
European Parliament to provide fair treatment for the seafarer who causes
unintentional pollution. Seafarers are after all human beings and human beings
should be allowed to make mistakes while at work, like anybody else.
We trust and are almost convinced that we were understood!
CESMA will continue to do its duty for the European shipmasters and the
European maritime industry, including the environment. We can only do our
honorary work when we are sufficiently supported by our member shipmasters'
associations. Associations of maritime nations which recently joined the
European Union, are kindly invited to join our ranks in order to promote the
cause of seafaring in European Union countries. We all know that our beautiful
professionin the EU is in danger, mainly because of economic incentives. We
can only convince with quality performance of our duties. This aspiration is and
will remain a leading factor and strive in CESMA policies and activities.. .
Capt. Fredrik J. Van Wijnen
RESOLUTIONS DURING CESMA ANNUAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN DUBLIN, IRELAND ON 16 APRIL 2005
RESOLUTION Nr. 1:
On the occasion of the 10th AGA of the Confederation of European
Shipmasters' Associations (CESMA) in Dublin, Ireland on 16th April 2005, it
was noted with great concern that, with regard to the issue of criminalisation of
seafarers, shipmasters in particular, there has been no improvement or progress
in solving this problem. A number of discussions during high level conferences
in Newcastle and London, in which representatives of CESMA participated,
covered the recent cases of the ERIKA, PRESTIGE and TASMAN SPIRIT.
However these conferences have not resulted in any incentives for proper
improvement. The judicial authority in any nation still decides at random over
the destiny of seafarers who are suspected of causing pollution, with or without
intent. This position is unassailable. The effect is a further downgrading of the
maritime profession, particularly in Europe, with all relevant aspects such as
shortages in the supply of EU seafarers.
It is the fundamental position of CESMA that criminal sanctions against
seafarers who perform unintentional marine pollution, caused by human error,
interfere with the basic principle of human rights and do not promote the issue
of protecting the marine environment. However CESMA supports all other
measures, as included in the MARPOL and UNCLOS conventions and as laid
down in our Confederation statutes.
CESMA therefore calls on national governments to safeguard the legal position
of international seafarers in this respect. It also calls on the International
Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO),
as well as the European Parliament and Commission, to initiate legislation
which protects the position of seafarers in the event of marine pollution until an
independent legal body has given a verdict on any applicable guilt.
RESOLUTION Nr. 2:
During the same assembly, councilmembers of CESMA noted with great
concern the decreasing number of EU nationals employed on board ships under
an EU flag. With the same concern the reduction in quality of seafarers on board
ships under a EU flag was emphasized.The trend will lead to lack of competence
for future EU national shipmasters as well as for officers, to occupy positions
within the EU maritime industry such as inspectors, pilots and surveyors.
Therefore CESMA suggests to EU bodies and national governments to give
attention to the following items in order to improve the above mentioned
- improve the attractiveness of the seafaring profession for EU nationals.
- encourage EU shipowners to bring more ships under an EU flag, preferably or mandatory to be manned by EU national seafarers.
- promote an overall quality in maritime education and training in EU
countries, in order to have an advantage in the global competition without
loosing the principle of a "level playing field". Standards should be set for a
harmonized EU maritime education and training system, with certification
based on the Bologna agreement.
The overall goal should be to maintain a prominent contingent of well trained
and educated EU national seafarers. This retention of maritime expertise in the
EU was found to be of crucial importance for the EU maritime industry, now
and in the future.
RESOLUTION NR. 3:
During the same Assembly, it was noted that most ports in the European Union
maintain their original and different documentation and inspection procedures,
although we have EU guidelines in this respect. CESMA proposes an uniform
European stand on relevant maritime legislation with clear and understandable
directions by national administrations and harbour authorities, in context with
the various national coastguard agencies in the European Union.
Dublin 16 april 2005
EUROPEAN COASTGUARD A REALITY?
Coastguard services in the European Union nations vary in functions, both
civil and military from country to country. Given the wide range of different
roles, there has been speculation that creating an EU coastguard would be more
difficult than creating an EU army. Yet it is closer to being launched than
anybody may expect according to recent closed-door negociations in Brussels.
Members of European Parliament managed to convince a recitent Council of
Ministers to accept the principle of a European coastguard for the first time,
despite warnings from industry leaders that merging national coastguards would
be hazardous. Reasons are obvious. Each national coastguard is convinced that
they deliver a service that cannot be equalled. We put the question of forming an
EU coastguard to the Irish Coastguard when we visited their premises during our
CESMA Annual General Assembly in Dublin in April this year. The answer was
clear. Co-operation yes, especially with the British coastguard, but no European
merger in any way. These are very national institutions with a certain standard
with mostly navy-background personnel with a good deal of doubt about
functioning of other European organisations. Another issue could be the
question of jobs being lost after initiating a Europe wide coastguard under a
The European Commission has been asked to complete a formal feasibility
study by the end of 2006 on the creation of EU wide coastguard. This is an
important step forward, as the EU Council of Ministers has accepted the
principle of an European coastguard. Some member states feared that such an
organisation could have an influence on defence tasks, but is was confirmed that
this was no option. No guns on EU coastguard ships. The European Commission
is expected to table a formal proposal for the creation of such an EU body,
if it considers the proposal cost-effective, possibly as early as 2007.
The negociations with the Council were not easy but in the end the EU Ministers
accepted the importance of jointly combating marine pollution. It is important to
have enforcement if you implement an EU Directive initiated to prevent
pollution. The Council conceded, as it also aware of the force of the public
opinion as the result of the environmental disasters with the "Erika " and the
Based on an interview with Euro MP Mrs Corien Wortmann-Kool in Lloyd's
MAPPING OF CAREER PATHS IN THE EU MARITIME INDUSTRY
(AN ECSA/ETF PROJECT SPONSORED BY THE EU SOCIAL FUND)
The 2001 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the
European Parliament on the training and recruitment of seafarers produced
several significant conclusions and recommendations. Of particular relevance to
this proposal were the recommendations on the organisation of co-ordinated
awareness campaigns to re-launch the image of the shipping industry and the
support of research into the present and potential job content and career paths of
active and former seafarers, at sea and on shore.
The more recent Council conclusion (2), having regard to the 2001
Communication, considered that further action should focus on the following
- The improvement of the image of the seafaring profession, aiming at attracting young people to work at sea;
- The assessment of existing human resources and seafarers' qualifications;
- The improvement of maritime education and training.
The Council encourages social partners to contribute to such efforts to attract
young people to the seafaring profession and invites shipowners, in particular, to
promote the idea of a career with perspectives of mobility, promotions and
future employment on land.
The rationale for this study, therefore, is to contribute to these initiatives by
mapping the multiple career opportunities that exist for European seafarers.
Career maps may be used by a variety of maritime organisations in Member
States to provide a co-ordinated and coherent set of information for potential
entrants to the shipping industry. Furthermore, the career maps will allow an
analysis of the entry requirements, training, qualifications and experience
required for career progression between different maritime sectors and can be
used to streamline and facilitate relevant career paths between sectors. Such an
integrated network will allow a more holistic approach to the marketing and
promotion of career opportunities in the maritime industries.
The goal of the study is to provide, through the construction of a series of
career maps across a range of Member States, an overview and global estimates
of the following:
- Possible and actual career paths of seafarers;
- Seafarer manpower and skill requirements at sea and in relevant shore-based maritime industries;
- Barriers to the mobility of qualified personnel between the sectors.
Specific Objectives which will be addressed by the project are as follows:
- To estimate the demand for seafarer skills in shore-based maritime sectors.
- To identify the skills needs and potential shortages between sectors.
- To identify the entry requirements, training, qualifications and experience required for career progression between different
- To analyse other barriers to mobility and career progression for seafarers.
- To provide a methodology and template for further studies into areas such as job content and design.
The expected outputs are:
- An interim progress report to the ECSA/ETF Sectoral Dialogue Working Group on Training and Recruitment.
- A seminar to promote the findings of the study.
- Website links, including ECSA/ETF/EC, to promote the study findings
- A final report containing the completed career maps for each selected Member State and other findings.
It is anticipated that the project will run for 12 months from the July 2004. It is
estimated that the interim progress report will be produced by the end of January
2005. A seminar to promote the findings of the study will be held in June 2005,
with the final report to be completed by September 2005.The project will be
conducted by two researchers from Southampton Institute and one from ECSA.
The work will include the preparation of interview material and identification of
key personnel for interview in the selected Member States; the conduct and
travel time associated with interviews, data analysis and report writing and the
preparation and conduct of a seminar to disseminate the findings of the study.
The following 10 Member States have been selected for the study:
United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Denmark,
Sweden, Poland and Latvia.
The selected Member States represent a range of
both northern and southern States and candidate countries. All States selected
have significant numbers of seafarers. They also represent different maritime
regimes and clusters. It is envisaged that the project findings will be launched at
a seminar held in Brussels towards the end of the project period. It is anticipated
that the Commission will provide a venue for the seminar and that high level
Commission officials as well as the media will attend. Representatives from
ECSA/ETF, Member States and candidate countries will be invited.
From a report sent to us by Prof . Mike Barnett of the Solent Academy, Southampton
FINES FOR POLLUTION IN EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE
Vessels approaching the EU coastal areas, including the Exclusive Economic
Zone EEZ), which reaches up to 200 NM of the coastline, especially near the
French coast, should be aware of an extraordinary attention by the French
authorities. According to French law, any pollution is considered as "voluntary"
and only pollution resulting from grounding or nautical accident could be
considered as "unvoluntary" or accidental.
The amount of the fine is based upon the polluted surface, the thickness of the
layer and the ecological risk as a consequence of the pollution. And from
observation we can say that it also depends from the "quality" of the ship
(quality of the crew and age of the ship and economic level of the flag). The
amount of fines is growing and growing and has been reaching 500.000 €
according to the latest jmudgements in court cases. This amount is often divided
in two parts: 90% is charged to the shipowner and 10% remains for the captain's
Although one may think otherwise, these 10% of the fines are actually
requested by the French judicial authority to be paid personally by the sentenced
shipmaster and are not at all taken into account by P&I clubs, as they do confirm
in their monthly bulletins. The last information about this subject is concerning
an Italian master who received home an order to pay 40.000 €. Following a
court sentence, a Greek master has also received home an order to pay.
Catching so-called polluters has become a national sport in France. Even a
shiny Miss France in a helicopter has become a pawn to please politicians and
the public to criminalise international seafarers for polluting French coastal
waters. It gives news for the media and provides work for judges and lawyers.
| We strongly suggest to all masters sailing in the french EEZ to lash and
lock with padlock the discharge sea-valve of oily water separator monitor
(15 ppm) and keep at all time this key in their pocket to avoid any misuse
of that system. Also to keep a proper record of any action which could be
questioned by authorities as soon as a pollution incident is reported, in
which ships under their command could be, in any way, held responsible.
From a publication by AFCAN
HOW TO OBTAIN A SET OF ELECTRONIC NAVIGATION CHARTS FOR A PARTICULAR VOYAGE
During the meeting of the European Maritime Navigation Forum (EMRF) on
18 February 2005 in Paris, a paper of the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN)
was discussed with proposals to improve arrangements to obtain ENCs for a
particular passage. Although the EMRF did not want to take action on this
matter because it is not related to radionavigation, the issue was considered
highly urgent and will be dealt with in other institutions in a later stage.
Under current IHO and IMO requirements Regional Electronic Navigation
Centers (RENCS) have been set up around the world to distribute the data and
organize electronic chart availability. Due to several reasons – such as cost
recovery – the RENCS do not freely exchange chart data in the required S57
format. The consequence of this non-cooperation is that for certain transits
ENCs have to be ordered at different RENCS.
Examples of this situation are:
- Transiting the English Channel, the UK side is covered by the International Center IC-ENC, whereas the French side is
covered by the RENC in Stavanger.
- A vessel on passage from Rotterdam to the Far East will find Australian waters covered by IC-ENC, but not for Japan, and
Japan does not receive data from Korea.
It was brought forward by a member of EMRF that there is at present a
Correspondence Group of IMO working on clarifying carriage of "appropriate"
paper charts as back up for ECDIS and possibly mandatory carriage
requirements (!), but also to improve chart distribution. Their report will be
discussed at the next meeting of the Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation of
the IMO in June 2005.
In the meantime the RIN will organize a separate meeting to discuss the matter
with direct involved organizations. The International Chamber of Shipping
(international ship owners) and the International Hydrographic Bureau have
indicated to attend the meeting. All parties involved agree that ENCs for a
certain passage should be available to ships from one "shop". More news about
this issue later.
Prof. Jac. Spaans,
Representing CESMA as advisor during the EMRF Conference.
DIRECTIVE AGAINST POLLUTERS SAID TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD
During a conference in May in Athens, Greece, criminilisation of seafarers
was again high on the agenda. Brussels' Mr. F. Karamitsos, a top European
Commission advocate in maritime affairs, defended the European Directive on
ship-source pollution. Mr. Karamitsos, Director of the the Commission's
maritime transport directorate, told the conference that the measure is intended
to prevent a repeat of the "Mangouras case". Rather then seeking to put seafarers
in jail, the Commission wants to bring in harmonised legal safeguards to prevent
countries from treating shipmasters in the same way as Captain Mangouras. We
all know and disagree on the fact that our colleague was detained by the Spanish
legal administration for two years, after his tanker broke apart in heavy weather,
off the Spanish northwest coast.
Mr. Karamitsos said that the fierce opposition from seafarers' organisations to
the draft directive is based on misunderstanding. The measures would result in a
co-ordinated framework of procedures and penalties for dealing with potential
offenders of pollution legislation. The European Commission wants to protect
quality operators. It also wants to promote quality maritime education and
training to ensure that competent crews man ships. This includes also decent
living and working conditions, attracting young Europeans to a seafaring career
and perhaps later ashore in the maritime industry. We know that Mr. Karamitsos
meant what he said, as he is known for having a heart for the seafarer in general.
We also know that Mr. Karamitsos is confronting a huge political influence in
Brussels which will not stop the criminilisation of the seafarer if the voter asks
its continuation. A great French leader and politician has given an example to
condemn almost every seafarer, if marine pollution is involved in any way.
The re-assurance of Mr. Karamitsos however was not enough for IMO's
secretary general Mr. E. Mitropoulos, who told the same conference that the
criminilisation of shipmasters and officers will adversely affect morale and
therewith jeopardise the longterm supply of skilled seafarers. Mr. Mitropolous is
also known for his sympathy for the seafaring profession. His background and
real power of influence may be supported by the International Maritime
Organisation, but this organisation can only wave a stick, if members agree on a
relevant convention. If this is going to involve de-criminilisation of seafarers,
we are still a long way from our goal, because staunch supporters, which do not
have to be mentioned, will do everything in their power to prevent such a
convention from either IMO or ILO. Indeed maritime safety is not at stake!
WHO IS IN COMMAND?
Commercial conflicts, with safety as a subject, are not uncommon and
shipmasters are often caught in the middle. If the shipowner has a properly
functioning Safety Management System, the shipmaster should be able to
address his concerns to the designated person ashore. Shipmasters in the short
sea trade have an overriding authority under the ISM code, relin-quished to
shore based personnel in charter parties. These parties are sometimes calling for
a compulsory starboard side berthing
, irrespective of wind/tide/current. This has
caused damage to vessels by attempting manoeuvres, totally inappropiate to the
conditions. If a shipmaster calls for additional tugs, there is an inquisition. This
issue calls for judicial comments:
Firstly this highlights the ever present strains between commerce and safety.
It may be that the question is not in fact a charter party issue but a matter of the
charterers' voyage instructions. If they originate from voyage charterers
legal status is slightly dubious. Voyage charterers do not have a general right to
"order the vessel around". However, if the instructions originate from time
, they have a general right "to order the ship around", but this does
not extend to questions of navigation. Although this boundary has been blurred
by the recent legal "Harmony Hill" decision, fact remains that it still leaves the
shipmaster with the right to take decisions about navigation, particularly where
the vessel's safety may be at stake.
In any event, the law considers that the shipmaster has an overriding duty
the safety of his ship and crew. He also has an overriding right to take action
which he, as a competent mariner, considers necessary. Therefore, even if the
charterparty contains a provision for berthing starboard side alongside, the
shipmaster does not always has to comply, if in a particular situation, he
considers it dangerous to do so. If a conflict arises from such a situation, there is
no right in a charter party to call for a change of the shipmaster. In a time
there may such a stipulation, but owners are generally only
obligated to consider the complaint and make a change, if it is justified
. It is
down to the shipowners to hold out for their shipmasters, although whether or
not they will do so, may depend significantly on commercial considerations.
If voyage instructions mention berthing starboard side alongside and the
eventual necessity of extra tugs, the lawful consequences would depend on the
precise wording in the charter party and voyage instructions. The charterers
however should have to pay for the extra tug(s) on a time and use basis.
Notwithstanding the above wording, the shipmaster continues to be responsible
for the safety of his ship. A good shipowner will support him, although we are
convinced that this will not be the case on many occasions.
From: Maritime Feedback (CHIRP) 2004
INTERREG IIIa PROJECT REACHES FINAL STAGE
When we were asked, as CESMA, to participate in the Interreg IIIa project,
we had some doubts. Not that we did not wanted to follow our late colleague
Captain Vallon's recommendations, on the contrary. But the goals were not
exactly in line with the aims and regular activities of CESMA, promoting the
interests of European shipmasters. There is however one exception and that is
the promotion of cleaner seas. When it comes to the education and training of
people who are actually capable of fighting pollution, whatever the cause, we
are there to co-operate. These experts, who are capable to fight the consequences
of pollution, will form an important contribution to the policies of national and
European parliaments as the environment is one of the most important issues of
They deal a.o. with the consequences of the accidents with the ERIKA and
PRESTIGE which made the public in the European Union aware of the
importance, also economically, of a clean marine environment. People,
including seafarers, have to be made aware of the importance of this issue. This
was the point of contact which made us decide to support CESMA participation
in the project. Captain Vallon also convinced us of the importance of the project
for maintaining and boosting proper training facilities in the Trieste region.
CESMA stepped in, just in time to win the contract from the European
On 23 May we celebrated the occasion of the first experts who concluded their
education and training. Out of 16 students, who started the course, 14 were
invited to receive their certification. Together with the graduation and to
highlight the importance of the protection of the marine environment, a seminar
was organised to emphasize the importance of depollution technics safeguarding
a better environment, including cleaner seas, not only in the Mediterrenean but
worldwide. A DVD film supplied by Captain Pagoaga of our Spanish (Bilbao)
association ACCVMM showed the efforts to clean the Spanish coastal waters of
the pollution caused by the disaster with the Bahama flag tanker "Prestige"
Professionals who can achieve these goals are most welcome in our professional
maritime society. Whatever the efforts to prevent similar accidents, they will
continue to occur, as we are dealing with the prevailing elements, including the
We want to express our sincere appreciation to our late colleague and friend
Captain Giampaolo Vallon, who made this project a reality. He will be
remembered for his devotion and vision.
Capt. Fredrik J. van Wijnen
A PLEADING FOR A EUROPEAN COASTGUARD (1)
Unsafety at sea exists and seamen must deal with it every day. Recent
disasters, such as with the "Erika", "Prestige" and several others, show us that
far from decreasing, risks increase because of the growth in the transportation of
huge cargoes of oil, dangerous goods and chemicals. The structure of the
maritime transport has changed during the last 40 years. The competition
conditions have changed. The flag states have also changed. They were more
serious before, with strong administrations to support them, but alas, this is not
always the case today!
In the past, only seafarers were afraid of shipwrecks, but today they also have
to fear from coastal populations. These citizens have been confronted too many
times with major oil spills and suffered serious environmental disasters. Fear
and anger! So these oil pollution victims, who depend on the fishing and tourism
sectors or nature lovers, force their governments to take concrete measures
providing a better protection of their coastline, too many times coated by a thick
film of oil. Enduring environmental damage, they hope such catastrophes will
never be allowed to happen again.
Each new accident can generate a disaster : The catastrophic scenario of a
collision involving a 150,000 M3 LNG carrier and a 500,000 tons ULCC,
although unacceptable, is within the realm of possibilities. Then, what can we
do in order to reduce the risk to the minimum, to approach the zero tolerance ?
The response can be written in two words: PREVENTION FIRST. Because
is always better than cure
. Primary safety is more suitable than
secondary safety. Obviously there is no panacea in this matter. There's an old
British adage: "He who would sail without danger, must never come on the
". That's right. The sea is what it is and we cannot avoid it.
Professional seafarers know all the problems of maritime navigation and
fortunately have also the solutions to these problems. We have to take into
account their ideas.
So allow me to suggest one: the establishment of a specialized corps of
European Coast-Guards. There are now 25 Euro members. 19 of them have sea
borders. So an EU Coastguard is not an utopian scheme but a realistic one,
dictated by common sense. It should be a comprehensive and global EU
response, relying on a good and genuine knowledge of the safety of navigation.
It's a real need for an effective and co-ordinated protection of the coasts from
the Baltic to the Black sea.
In order for you to realize the necessity of implementing a European
Coastguard, I shall briefly recall some past events, some recipes of failure!
On Saturday March 18th 1967, at daybreak, fine weather and good visibility,
the Liberian tanker "Torrey Canyon", fully loaded with 120,000 tons of crude
oil and full ahead, ran aground on the Seven Stones in the East of Scilly
Islands! It was a disaster, it was the start of a new era, where each accident at
sea can turn into an ecological catastrophe ! After the United Kingdom and
France had been victims of this major pollution caused by the "Torrey Canyon",
it was South Africa's turn to be smothered in crude oil. The oil boom and the
closing of the Suez Canal had caused maritime traffic to intensify along the
south African coast, which is especially inhospitable during the austral winter
storms, when low pressures succeed one another along the route of the "Roaring
Forties". Groundings, collisions, explosions and wrecks would follow one
another. The authorities were slow to act and adopt the following measures
which are quite similar to those taken in France a few years later: prohibition for
ships carrying dangerous cargoes to sail nearer than 12 nautical miles from the
coast, and the launching in 1976 of two powerful salvage tugs of 18,000 HP, the
"John Ross" and the "Wolraad Woltemade", based in Capetown and Durban.
In France no lesson was learnt by the South African example, in spite of the
similarities existing between the approaches to Capetown and to Ushant island :
identical weather conditions and a very heavy maritime traffic. As early as the
Summer of 1967, the "Torrey Canyon" wreck had already been forgotten. The
same scenario would be applied on a 24th of January 1976. In stormy weather,
off Ushant island, a VLCC on her maiden trip was in distress after a lot of black-
outs during the night. The watchman of the signal station, close to Creach light
house, is not on duty, surveillance was carried out only in daylight! So after
opening his shutters, he discovers the white super tanker on ballast "Olympic
Bravery", lying stranded, mortally injured on the rocks, one cable's length from
the coast ! Passions were running high in Brittany .
Once more there was a clear lack of initiative among the authorities
concerned. No one decided to empty out the 1,200 tons of the ship's fuel tanks
during that period, in spite of a spell of unusual fine weather and calm sea for
winter time! And the flagship of the Onassis armada broke in two, six weeks
after, spewing the viscous bunkers into the sea ! It is surprising to note that after
the warning given by the "Olympic Bravery" odyssey, no control of the busy
area of the Ushant "bend" was carried out by night. The northbound lane of the
traffic scheme was still so close to the shore (about 5 miles !) and no powerful
salvage tug was in station at Brest, the nearest port ! However at that time, all
these simple measures were already then asked for by the French Captains.
Therefore, on March 9th 1978, an official decree was issued granting the
Naval Commandant, Prefet Maritime, free scope as to actions at sea,
interventions in the fields of navigation and prevention of accidents, and which
gave them general administrative police authority at sea. Nevertheless, on March
16th 1978, only seven days after the implementation of this decree, the Liberian
VLCC "Amoco Cadiz", suffering rudder damage, fully loaded with 220,000
tons of Arabian light crude oil, ran aground on the rocks of Portsall. This new
stranding caused the oil spill of the century, 400 km of the Brittany shoreline
were polluted ! This disaster caused widespread concern in France.
Members of the French Parliamentary investigation commission, created after
the stranding of the "Amoco Cadiz", understood the disastrous situation and in
recommendation n░ 37, they proposed "unanimously that a special corps of
Coast-Guards should be created with the task of implementing the Regulations
concerning the prevention of accidents at sea and the protection of the coasts".
At last, after this environmental catastrophe, the authorities reacted by putting
pressure on IMO to modify the Ushant navigation scheme, pushing out the
traffic lanes. Three major salvage tugs were chartered and continuous
surveillance of the maritime traffic was carried out , day and night this time,
with a new long range radar. But in spite of these wide range of measures which
represented a great improvement in the safety at sea and a better protection of
the coasts, the series of accidents continued.
The full Admirals of the French Navy, the Prefets Maritimes, remained in
charge and co-ordinated this task of public interest, currently shared by a four
institutions.All of them, responsible for control in coastal waters, are still
obstinately opposed to a new organisation such as the creation of an European
Coastguard, a direction towards which France and other Euiropean member
states should move.
In France this mission represented last year 25 per cent of the whole activity of
the French Navy! So we fully understand why the Admirals don't agree to
transfer these duties to an European Coast Guard! Even these two common
words used all over the world "Coast Guard
" are vanished from their
vocabulary! They prefer to say "Maritime Safeguard Force"! No further
comment necessary. So French authorities, when they are confronted with a
new problem to work out after a new maritime accident, seem surprised to
discover it for the first time. This is an inevitable consequence of the short-term
policy which has been followed since March 1978. The obvious reasons for that,
is the fact that the present system does not rely on professional and experienced
seafarers. I repeat that only they
have a good knowledge of the problems
involved at sea and only they know the way to improve the efficiency with
regard to PREVENTION.
The best and last examples to date, are the disasters of the old Maltese tanker
"Erika" and Bahamian "Prestige". What a similarity between the two casualties
at a 2 years interval ! Storm chaos and fiascos for Europe ! But what a similarity
also with the case of the Malagasy tanker "Tanio" which broke in two at the
entrance of the Channel twenty years (20) before! Quite the same scenario:
old single hulled vessel loaded with heavy fuel, substandard and convenience
flag, in distress in a winter storm. The only difference was the high number of
human lives lost in the drama of the "Tanio". But the half part of this tanker,
towed by a salvage tug, was looking also for a place of refuge, and the convoy
wandered in the Channel more than 24 hours before getting the authorization to
enter the port of Le Havre !
At that time the French Captains denounced once more the flags of
convenience and the problem of the Heavy Fuel transportation by old tankers.
The Captains started to demand action to prevent similar disasters to occur, but
in vain ! We had to wait for the disasters with the "Erika" and "Prestige" to get
some reactions: the Erika packages of safety measures
, initiated by the
European Commission and Parliament.
The context of this somewhat heavy critical analysis is meant to highlight the
limits and inadequacies of the present systems, not only in France but also in the
entire European maritime community. There is only one way of perfecting it:
to have a global vision of the whole transport chain
. If you know exactly
which is the weakest link, it is easier to cure it. This is called "prevention
The "Blue Europe" aims are not only the fisheries protection and the
calculating of the authorized fishing quotas for herrings and hakes, but also the
enhancement of safety and security of navigation in EU waters and ports , plus
the environmental protection of the coasts. Let us not forget once more that the
shore line which has to be watched and controlled stretches from the Baltic to
the Black Sea, about 100,000 kms of coastline! It covers not only enormous
fishing areas, but also the greatest number of ports in the world, and the straits
where the largest concentration of ships is to be found.
Assistance to shipping must be reinforced in order to ensure the safe
transportation of goods along the coasts. PREVENTION
should be the motto
for the actions undertaken at sea, repressive legislation should be applied if
necessary, as part of a policy of unilateral decisions in order to drive out those
old dilapidated vessels, which defy humanitarian laws and elementary rules of
safe navigation in our European waters. Safer shipping, cleaner oceans!
(to be continued)
Captain Michel Bougeard
Master Mariner /Association Franšaise des Capitaines de Navires (AFCAN)
FROM THE EDITORS
To underline the upcoming importance of Asian shipping, Singapore now has
initiated its own classification society: SINGCLASS INTERNATIONAL
was launched on 30 June and it aims to be the top classification society
focusing on non SOLAS vessels under 500 gross tonnes.
CESMA is invited to participate in the prestigious Mare Forum Conference
"Shipping in a responsible Society – Quo Vadis" in The Cavalieri Hilton
Hotel, Rome, Italy on 12 and 13 September 2005
Captain Chris Lefevere, Senior Pilot on the River Scheldt, was elected as the
new Secretary General of EMPA (European Maritime Pilot's Association)
during the 39th EMPA Annual General Assembly in Sopot, Poland on 1 till 3
June 2005. Captain Lefevere can be reached by e-mail under:
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The final discussions on the EU Directive on anti-pollution measures,
including sanctions against infringements, took place in Brussels on 27 June.
The Directive leaves enough freedom for nations to act on their own if they
deem necessary and does not sufficiently protect the seafarer when he makes
a human error, causing pollution. Again we look at a political decision and
not a professional piece of legislation, leaving the action to the local judicial
authorities in the relevant region of nations in the EU.
The results of the EU project EMBARC in which CESMA participated were
presented to the European Commission in Brussels on 31 May. EMBARC
will be followed by the new MarNis project which principally deals with the
same subjects: safe navigation in port areas and approaches. CESMA will be
part of the High Level Advisory Board of MarNis.
After a study, the Council of the Ministry of Transport in the Netherlands
(an advisory body), has concluded that only part of its officers in the
department feels involved in European affairs and legislation. This is bad for
The Netherlands and bad for Europe. We fear that The Netherlands is not the
only example of this tendency.
Mr. Ed Sarton has stepped down as President of the Dutch seafarers'
federation (FWZ). during a reception on 30 June at Rotterdam. He was
succeeded by Marcel van de Broek, also with a seafaring background.
Mr Sarton will stay with FWZ as international secretary, co-ordinating ties
with British Seafarer's Union Numast and the International and European
Transportworkers' Federations ITF and ETF.
AMRIE has invited CESMA to participate in the final conference of the EU
project REALISE at the Conrad Hotel in Brussels on 21 October 2005. The
project mainly concerns the advantages and limitations of shortsea shipping
in countries of the European Union.
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