Enhancing Maritime Safety, Security and Environmental Protection on European Waters
Blog: Markku Mylly, Executive Director, EMSA, Lisbon, Portugal
Published 30.11.2015

The European Maritime Safety Agency has been established in 2002 by the founding Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002   to support the Member States and the Commission and to ensure a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety and security, as well as prevention of and response to pollution by ships within the EU.
 
The Agency’s tasks are broadly divided into four key areas in line with its founding Regulation and relevant EU legislation.
 
Firstly, the Agency assists the Commission in monitoring the implementation of EU legislation relating, among others, to ship survey and certification, the certification of marine equipment, ship security, the training of seafarers and port State control.
 
Secondly, the Agency develops and operates maritime information capabilities at EU level. Significant examples are SafeSeaNet, the vessel traffic monitoring system to enable EU-wide tracking of vessels and their cargoes, and accidents and incidents; the EU LRIT Cooperative Data Centre, to ensure the identification and tracking of EU flagged ships worldwide; and THETIS, the information system to support the new port State control regime.
 

In parallel, marine pollution preparedness, detection and response capability is provided by EMSA to coastal States.  This includes a European Network of Stand-by Oil Spill Response Vessels as well as a European satellite oil spill and vessel detection service (CleanSeaNet), contributing to an effective system for protecting EU coasts and waters from pollution at sea. With the revision of the Founding Regulation, a new objective related to the response to marine pollution caused by oil and gas installations has been introduced by the co-legislators.

Finally, the Agency provides technical and scientific advice to the Commission in the field of maritime safety and prevention of pollution by ships in the continuous process of evaluating the effectiveness of the measures in place, and in the updating and development of new legislation. It also provides support to, and facilitates co-operation between, the Member States and disseminates information on best practice.
 
As a body of the European Union, the Agency sits at the heart of the EU maritime safety and pollution response network and collaborates with many industry stakeholders and public bodies, in close cooperation with the Commission and the Member States.
 

EMSA is still an Agency in development. Notwithstanding the fact that it was created in 2002, the Agency continues to be confronted with new demands for support and services.
 
EMSA’s mandate has been revised four times, with new tasks entrusted to the Agency on each occasion. The most recent revision (Regulation (EU) n.100/2013) identifies core tasks, directly referring to the objectives set out for EMSA in its Article 1  and ancillary tasks, creating the possibility for the Agency to use its expertise and tools for other EU activities related to the Union maritime transport policy.
 
Moreover specific projects have been entrusted to the Agency in relation to the “Blue Belt” concept, fostering cooperation with the Customs Authorities, and in relation to the Common Information Sharing Environment for the maritime domain.
 
The geographical spread of its technical assistance capabilities has also increased: the Agency is now entrusted with direct implementation of the EU funded project for ENP countries “SAFEMED III”.
 
In addition, new activities in the field of maritime surveillance, satellite applications, cooperation with other Agencies and institutions - such as JRC, Frontex, EFCA, ESA, MAOC-N, EU Atlanta in Horn of Africa and EU Atlanta MED – are on-going, clearly showing that there is a growing demand for using EMSA as a service provider for the Commission, Member States and other EU institutions and bodies.
 
EMSA is located in Lisbon with the staff of ca. 250 persons from 25 member states. EMSA’s budget is roughly 55 million euros levied from EU budget and in addition during the recent years the Agency is also receiving project financing mainly from different EU Directorates or other EU Agencies.