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Rewriting the European rules

17 February 2022

Revisions to three key EU maritime directives could be an opportunity for governments and the maritime community to improve seafarers' rights, argues Estelle Brentnall of the ETF

The European Commission is currently analysing the possible impacts of a possible revision of three key maritime directives on port state control, flag state requirements and maritime accident investigation. The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) – a union grouping including Nautilus International – is contributing to this impact assessment process.

The impact assessments are almost complete, and the Commission will submit a report to the Regulatory Scrutiny Board before it can propose a legislative instrument.

According to the so-called 'Better Regulation' agenda in the European Commission, EU laws and regulation are proposed where the benefits are likely to outweigh the associated costs.

Whilst we welcome the European Commission's possible revision of the maritime directives, we hope that it will ultimately conclude that the benefits to improving the safety of ships and saving lives at sea are worth the cost.

As we all know, seafarers are still struggling to sign off from ships in this time of pandemic and can face an unprecedented extended period onboard. Seafarers' employment agreements have in some cases been extended beyond a reasonable time, and these practices continue to put seafarers' safety at risk.

We witness that flag states are not always adequately assuming jurisdiction over the social matters concerning their ships. Any revision of the flag state requirements directive must therefore ensure that flag states fully implement seafarers' rights onboard their ships.

Port state controls are important measures in upholding the basic rights of seafarers to decent working and living conditions. Considering the abusive practices taking place, we demand more effective and comprehensive control of ships, as well as effective sanctions.

When it comes to maritime accident investigation, being able to uncover the underlying causes of an accident and to recommend changes for fast implementation would certainly be worth the cost.

Finally, there is also a pressing need for a directive on compliance with and enforcement of Council Directive (EU) 2017/159 of 19 December 2016, implementing the agreement concerning the implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, 2007.

Many issues await our attention and resources, or else we will face consequences at some point in the future, and we will fail to encourage the young generation to join the maritime industry in general.

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Estelle Brentnall

Estelle Arnette Brentnall is head of maritime at the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF). Previously she worked for the International Transport Workers’ Federation, and has been responsible for the food, drink and tobacco sectors of the European Federation of Agriculture, Food and Tourism workers. She studied maritime law at the universities of Southampton, UK, and Nantes, France.


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