The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) regulation is one of the measures adopted by the EU to improve safety systems at sea, to reduce risk of accidents, maritime pollution, and loss of life. Since 2002, EMSA has supported the EU Commission in interventions aimed at guaranteeing safety in port facilities, and for passengers and crews on board, both passenger and commercial vessels. EMSA gives Member States and the Commission technical and scientific assistance and high expertise to “apply Community legislation properly in the field of maritime safety and prevention of pollution by ships, to monitor its implementation and to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures in place”. The Agency is a consultative and inspection body with headquarters in Lisbon. Although not a European body in the strict sense of the word, the Agency is considered part of the community to the point that in every member State it has “legal capacity according to legal persons under their laws” (art. 5, c. 2). EMSA is the operative and technical branch of the European Commission and has, like other agencies, an Executive director and Administrative board. The activity of the agency under the relevant provisions of the international agreement aims to impose an obligatory and uniform methodology, so as to reduce the discretional powers of any single state regarding investigation into the cause of accidents. Although these were the original tasks entrusted to the agency, new safety requirements have since then appeared: the Prestige disaster, which in less than two years after the Erika, devastated the Galician coast with terrible consequences for the maritime ecosystem, and the destruction of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, alerted governments around the world to the need to develop measures to avoid risk of damage to the environment and prevent other terrorist attacks. After 11 September the international community decided to regulate this complex subject of prevention and security, providing a set of new standards. Focus on the risk of attack, first concentrated on aviation, was extended to the field of navigation. In international bodies which were concerned with maritime safety, studies were undertaken with the aim of creating a body of provisions to prevent attacks on shipping Since 2004, EMSA ensures, not only maritime safety and prevention of pollution, but also maritime security and response to pollution by ships. Article 1, paragraph 3, foresees that EMSA shall provide the Member States and the Commission with technical and scientific support for accidental and intentional pollution, drawing up measures in line with policies aimed to strengthening the Community framework for cooperation in this area, and agreements and international conventions. The existing European instruments are Decision N 2850/2000 and Decision 2001/792 EC/Euratom. These measures aim at increasing the activities of Member States in the event of an accident, to promote and strengthen cooperation and mutual assistance. EMSA is also supported in its activities by the Committee on Safe Seas and Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS). The evolution of the agency’s tasks and functions are an expression of a wider notion of safety, including both security and sustainable development.
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