Shipping accidents are a huge concern to the European Community, and in particular those which cause loss of human life or major pollution in EU sea areas and along the coastline of the member states. Therefore, it is vital that an EU level system is set in place which is capable of substantially reducing the risk of such accidents. A critical part of the developing system is the development and implementation of common standards which ensure high safety levels in the performance of equipment which is carried on board EU flagged ships. In particular, it is clear that the setting in place of consistently high quality type approval methods, testing standards and testing methods will have a very significant positive effect on the performance of equipment.
Against this background, it is acknowledged that the maritime sector is a global entity and that the implementation of existing international standards varies greatly throughout the world. This is consequently a fundamental problem for any country, or group of countries, which would like to ensure high safety standards for ships operating in, or near to, their coastal waters.
With these things in mind, the European Union has set in place Directive 96/98/EC (as amended). This seeks to enhance safety at sea and the prevention of marine pollution through the uniform application of the relevant international instruments relating to equipment to be placed on board ships for which safety certificates are issued by or on behalf of member states pursuant to international conventions and to ensure the free movement of such equipment within the Community.
The main aim of the Directive is to ensure, as far as possible, that marine equipment on EU flagged ships is designed and constructed to appropriate standards. In addition to improving safety, it is also expected that constructing equipment to higher standards will improve the competitiveness of the EU ship building industry. The Directive places a number of key requirements on the European Commission, the technical elements of which have become the responsibility of EMSA. These include: