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      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



      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.


      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 situation:       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.


      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


      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 central command.

      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 "Prestige".

Based on an interview with Euro MP Mrs Corien Wortmann-Kool in Lloyd's List 17.02.05


      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 three objectives: 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: Specific Objectives which will be addressed by the project are as follows: The expected outputs are:
  1. An interim progress report to the ECSA/ETF Sectoral Dialogue Working Group on Training and Recruitment.
  2. A seminar to promote the findings of the study.
  3. Website links, including ECSA/ETF/EC, to promote the study findings
  4. 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


      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 account.

      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


      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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.


      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!



      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, the 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 charterers, 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 for 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 charter party 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


      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 today's agenda.

      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 competent authorities.

      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 human element.

      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


      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 prevention 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 main sea". 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)


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