BRUSSELS, Aug. 1 (EUROPE PRESS) –
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled this Monday that the national authorities of the seaports can only immobilize NGO rescue ships in case of risk to safety, health and the environment, a risk that the State must prove
In its ruling, the court based in Luxembourg has highlighted that to carry out such an inspection, the national authorities must demonstrate that there were “serious indications of danger to” health, safety, working conditions on board or the environment.
European justice has recognized that NGO rescue vessels dedicated to rescuing people at sea may be subject to inspections carried out by port authorities.
The court has indicated that “once the ship has finished disembarking or transporting those people in a port”, the national authorities have the power to subject it to an inspection to verify that it complies with safety regulations at sea.
However, the European court has observed that the number of people on board, “even if it is greater than the authorized number” cannot constitute the basis for a control, since the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the SOLAS Convention establish that the number of persons on board a ship, within the framework of a maritime rescue operation, “should not be taken into account when verifying that safety regulations at sea have been complied with”.
The case responds to a query from the Regional Court of Administrative Litigation of Sicily (Italy) before the appeal filed by the NGO Sea Watch, after its ships were immobilized by the maritime captaincies of Palermo and Porto Empedocle (Italy), who detected dangerous technical and operational deficiencies in them. In its appeal, the NGO argued that the Italian port authorities had “exceeded the limits” in the exercise of their powers.
The opinion has considered that directive 2009/16 applies to ships that, despite having been registered as “multipurpose cargo ships”, carry out maritime search and rescue activities, as is the case of Sea Watch.
In the event that the inspection shows deficiencies, the national port authorities can “adopt corrective measures”, which must be “adequate” and proportionate”, the court’s opinion has collected.
In addition, the ruling has observed that the national port authorities can demonstrate that there are serious signs of danger if a cargo ship is used for rescue activities or search for people.
However, the national authorities may not require these vessels to have certificates other than those issued by the flag State or that comply with requirements applicable to another classification.
Finally, the CJEU has indicated that in the event that deficiencies are proven that are a danger to safety at sea, the principle of “loyal cooperation” must be maintained by which the Member States — including the port State and the Flag state– “are obliged to cooperate.”