On 20 November 2013 the European Commission decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 262 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the Joint Communication For an open and secure global maritime domain: elements for a European Union maritime security strategy.
The EESC welcomes the EU’s demonstration of political will to place maritime security at the top of its political agenda. It supports the Joint Communication on elements of a European maritime security strategy (EMSS) and its holistic approach to coping with the multifaceted maritime threats. European civil society is directly concerned by the EMSS. The EESC endorses a strategic cross-sectoral approach to maritime security, building upon existing achievements without creating new structures. This approach will create jobs in line with the Europe 2020 growth strategy and make the maritime profession more attractive to seafarers.
The EESC endorses the proposed synergies between the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Europol, FRONTEX, the European Defence Agency (EDA), the EU Military Staff, and the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate. It supports seeking transnational synergies between maritime activities whilst complying with the subsidiarity principle. A comprehensive EU approach, including a common understanding of the state of play, will ensure more efficient use of resources through better coordination of surveillance activities.
The EESC calls on the EU to do more to work with NATO’s existing resources. It welcomes the positive results from co-location of their operational headquarters at Northwood, and proposes closer collaboration with the Chiefs of European Navies (CHENS), national coastguards and the EU Coast Guard Functions Forum based on the experience of FRONTEX and the European Patrol Network.
The EESC welcomes the “pooling and sharing” initiative for the shared use of equipment capabilities and military/civilian engagement. This will require compatibility of maritime and naval capabilities standards. Cooperation and solidarity between Member States will help to optimise the use of available infrastructure and ensure cost efficiency.
Ratification and implementation of the 1982 UNCLOS Convention and of the 1988 Suppression of Unlawful Acts Convention (SUA) by EU Member States and other countries around the world will provide the legal basis for prosecution. The EESC reiterates the need for closer cooperation with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regarding implementation of its conventions dealing with maritime security.
Implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code should be stepped up in EU ports and in ports of third countries (in West Africa, for example), as a way of preventing piracy, armed robbery and cargo theft incidents. ISPS compliance is required for the scanning of containers which can act as Trojan horses in ports.
The EESC reiterates the need for more systematic tracking of the financial flows of piracy and of other illegal activities at sea in collaboration with the UN, NATO and the US.
There are concerns about the timely introduction and worldwide availability of approved courses for security training of seafarers, required as of 1 January 2014. The grace period from 1 January 2014 to 1 July 2015 provided by the IMO for state port control of compliance with certificates under STCW Regulation/VI/6 is welcome. The US Anti-Piracy Assessment Teams offer an example of best practice to be followed by the EU in terms of voluntary checks of anti-piracy preparedness on board ships.
The EESC notes that piracy prosecutions are failing to effectively deter due to the considerable variation in court sentences. A harmonised piracy law is required to face an international crime like piracy and put an end to impunity.
The Horn of Africa operation addressing the root causes ashore is a success story which, mutatis mutandis, can be used as a model in other areas. Decent living conditions ashore could make piracy less appealing. The EESC supports the extension of the Ocean Shield (NATO) and Atalanta operations when they come up for renewal.
The EESC urges the EU institutions to exert political and diplomatic pressure in response to the escalation of piracy in West Africa. The ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and 16 African States, the Cotonou Agreement and the EU-Africa Partnership can be a source of leverage. Facilitation of trade between the EU and ECOWAS requires safe trading and transport lanes. Nigeria should be offered assistance to upgrade its coastguard and be encouraged to allow other nations’ armed guards to enter its waters.
The EESC welcomes the Council Conclusions on the Gulf of Guinea (17/03/2014), which must be translated into specific measures. Local civil societies should be involved to ensure better understanding of the local context, and supported to put pressure on their governments for solutions to the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
A special EU representative for West Africa should be appointed, like for the Horn of Africa. The UN resolution (November 2013) on anti-piracy strategy in West Africa is to be commended. Cooperation of coastguards between East and West Africa should be stepped up.
Internationally agreed standards for maritime security companies should be introduced. The ISOPAS 28007 standard will ensure a level playing field for private armed guard companies globally.
The EESC commends intensification of maritime surveillance to provide timely awareness of illegal acts at sea through reinforced cooperation between EMSA, FRONTEX and the Joint Research Centre (JRS). Maritime security research and development should be expanded in cooperation with the JRC.
The EESC believes that the fundamental human rights, principles and values enshrined in EU law should be taken into account when implementing the EMSS and promoted in countries outside the EU.
The EESC welcomes the proposal to forge partnerships between all maritime security stakeholders at EU level and within the Member States, including industry, the social partners and civil society. Implementation of existing legislation in cooperation with the social partners should make for a more cost-effective approach to maritime security.
Thank you & Best Regards,
Eng. Dimitrios Nikolaos Spanos