The EU has helped make European shipping cleaner, safer and fairer. In 1986, a level playing field for shipping companies was created thanks to European legislation. It removed barriers for operators, countered protectionism from countries outside the bloc and made pricing fairer. Further liberalisation of the transport and passenger markets came in 1992, relaxing rules in the short-haul market.
This allowed companies from one country in the bloc to sail between the ports of another member state. At the turn of the millennium, not one but two disasters struck, which would shape EU maritime legislation. In 1999 the oil tanker Erika sank near France. Prestige, another tanker full of heavy oil, sank near Spain three years later. The environmental catastrophes led to the creation of the EU Maritime Agency and better compensation for the victims of oil spills.
“The solution we propose is to supplement the existing funds with the creation of a European Fund, financed by the oil companies that would offer to the victims quick compensation of up to €1 billion.” That legislation included the introduction of stronger hulls for tankers, stricter mandatory inspections, blacklisting dangerous ships from EU ports and black box data recorders. Parliament backed rules making shipping even safer in 2003, increasing standards in both passenger and cargo transport, better protecting people and the environment against accidents and negligence. “But maritime protection must be understood including, not only the terrorist threat, but also preventive measures necessary to face risks of all kinds.
” In 2005, as Europe’s roads became increasingly congested with lorry traffic, Parliament called for short-haul shipping as an alternative to road transport. Then it backed gradually reducing toxic sulphur in marine fuel in 2012 as part of the drive to save lives and make the shipping industry cleaner. “We are all aware of the fact that sulphur is dangerous for the environment. There are about 50,000 premature deaths that can be put down to these emissions from vessels.” Today, shipping still accounts for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Parliament is calling for climate-neutral EU maritime transport by 2050, with clean ports, the phasing out of heavy oil and more research into green technologies and fuels.