Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


50 Port State Control

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsDraft Council Decision concerning the EU's position on annual decisions under an international agreement on Port State Control
Legal baseArticles 100(2) and 218(9) TFEU; —; QMV
Department

Document numbers

Transport

(36791), 8001/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 159

Summary and Committee's conclusions

50.1 The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control concerns inspections of foreign flag ships in a Port State's waters to ensure compliance with relevant maritime conventions. Port State Control is seen as a second line of defence against substandard shipping due to a serious failure of ship owners and some flag States. The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control Committee, which comprises all 27 members (including coastal Member States) of the Memorandum of Understanding, meets annually in May to discuss and agree, by consensus, matters of Port State Control policy.

50.2 Since 1995 the EU has had legislation on Port State Control. The current legislation makes various references to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding and its procedures on Port State Control. As a result the EU has acquired exclusive competence in relation to those elements of the Memorandum and further agreements made under its auspices, to the extent that this EU legislation is affected. As the EU is not a member of the Memorandum of Understanding, Member States are not able to assume obligations likely to affect the EU legislation unless they are authorised to do so by means of a Council Decision.

50.3 In previous years a coordination meeting with Member States has been held prior to meetings of the Port State Control Committee, under the auspices of a Council Shipping Working Party, followed by a Commission non-paper detailing the agreed positions on certain agenda items during the committee meeting.

50.4 Earlier this year the Commission proposed a change of approach. It put forward this draft Council Decision on the positions to be adopted on behalf of the EU at the annual Port State Control Committee meetings during the period 2015-18. Its proposal for a multiannual Council Decision was made up of two parts: Annex I setting out guiding principles and Annex II setting out a process for the adoption of the specific positions each year relevant to each year's committee meeting. The Commission proposed that it should prepare non-papers setting out an envisaged EU position for discussion and agreement in the Council Shipping Working Party ahead of each annual meeting.

50.5 The Government tells us that Member States were unhappy with this proposal and that in May the Council adopted a compromise text which made the Council Decision applicable only to the May 2015 meeting of the Port State Control Committee and only addressed positions to be adopted on behalf of the EU with respect to the five papers to be considered at that meeting which fell within exclusive EU competence. The Government also tells us that, although it welcomes the compromise text, it abstained from the Council agreement, because the matter was still under scrutiny.

50.6 Given both that an acceptable Council Decision emerged and that the Government did not breach the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution we clear this document from scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Draft Council Decision on the position to be adopted, on behalf of the European Union, in the Port State Control Committee of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control: (36791), 8001/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 159.

Background

50.7 The Paris Memorandum of Understanding (Paris MoU) on Port State Control (PSC) has existed since 1983 when 14 likeminded countries (including the UK) signed a memorandum on the undertaking of PSC inspections on foreign flag ships in their waters to ensure compliance with relevant maritime conventions. PSC is seen as a second line of defence against substandard shipping due to a serious failure of shipowners and some flag States. The Paris MoU now comprises 27 members (the Russian Federation, Canada, Iceland, Norway and the coastal Member States of the EU). The Paris MoU PSC Committee (PSCC), which comprises all members of the Paris MoU, meets annually in May to discuss and agree, by consensus, matters of PSC policy.

50.8 Following a major pollution incident off the coasts of the Shetland Islands in 1993 the Commission proposed a Directive on PSC, which became Directive 1995/21/EC. Following the 'Erika' pollution incident in 1999, off the coast of Britany, the Commission presented the Third Maritime Safety Package which included a recast Directive on PSC, Directive 2009/16/EC, which makes various references to the Paris MoU and its procedures on PSC.

50.9 Although the EU is not a member of the Paris MoU, under Article 218(9) TFEU Member States are not authorised to assume obligations likely to affect EU rules unless they are authorised to do so by means of a Council Decision.

The document

50.10 In previous years a coordination meeting with the EU members has been held prior to meetings of the PSCC, under the auspices of a Council Shipping Working Party, followed by a Commission non-paper detailing the agreed positions on certain agenda items during the PSCC.

50.11 The Commission has now proposed a change of approach. It considers the actions of the PSCC to come under exclusive EU competence, which the EU has acquired pursuant to Article 3(2) TFEU, in so far as the decisions made by the committee may affect or alter the scope of EU rules.

50.12 The Commission therefore put forward this draft Council Decision on the positions to be adopted on behalf of the EU at the annual PSCC meetings during the period 2015-18. Its proposal for a multiannual Council Decision was made up of two parts: Annex I setting out guiding principles and Annex II setting out a process for the adoption of the specific positions each year relevant to each year's PSCC. The Commission proposed that it should prepare non-papers setting out an envisaged EU position for discussion and agreement in the Council Shipping Working Party ahead of each annual PSCC meeting.

The Government's view

50.13 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 26 May 2015 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill) first notes that:

·  Article 4 TFEU provides that transport is a shared competence of the EU; and

·  as both the current and former Directives directly refer to and copy out the rules of procedures for PSC into the Directives, it has been accepted by previous Governments that some of the actions of the PSCC are capable of coming under exclusive EU competence pursuant to Article 3(2) TFEU, since the decisions made at the PSCC meetings may affect or alter the scope of EU rules.

50.14 The Minister then reports that:

·  Member States gave the Commission proposal its initial consideration at a Shipping Working Party meeting on 22 April;

·  a number raised significant concerns about the proposal — some concerns were based on questions about the status of the Paris MoU and therefore the applicability of Article 218(9) TFEU, while others were about the scope of the draft Council Decision in that it would cover positions to be adopted by Member States at PSCC meetings for the next four years;

·  the Government shared these concerns particularly as debate in the PSCC is generally technical in nature and too difficult to reduce to a set of general principles;

·  as a result of the discussions in the Shipping Working Party, the Presidency was asked to rewrite the proposed Council Decision in such a way that it was limited to areas where exclusive EU competence could be demonstrated;

·  the Presidency therefore proposed a compromise text which substantively revised the proposed Council Decision — in particular the compromise text made the Council Decision applicable only to the May 2015 meeting of the PSCC and only addressed positions to be adopted on behalf of the EU with respect to the five papers to be considered at the PSCC which would result in decisions which are deemed to have direct legal effect on EU rules; and

·  the compromise text was agreed by the Council on 18 May.

50.15 The Minister comments that:

·  the Government welcomes the compromise text of the Council Decision;

·  the issues debated at the PSCC, and the various Paris MoU technical groups which meet throughout the year, are highly technical in nature;

·  therefore, the position of the EU and its Member States would be difficult to reduce to a set of general principles that can be used every year;

·  the Government also considers that a multiannual Council Decision on this matter would set an unhelpful precedent;

·  the changes to the Paris MoU covered by the Council Decision would only make minimal changes in the UK's enforcement activities and do not have any policy implications; and

·  the Government did not consider, however, that the proposal justified a scrutiny override, and it therefore abstained when the Council agreed to the compromise proposal on 18 May.

50.16 The Minister adds that:

·  the Commission remains committed to the principle of a multiannual Decision, arguing that this is a more pragmatic approach given that the parameter of discussions at the Paris MoU is fairly stable and that the documents only become available a short time before the meeting; and

·  it may, therefore, bring forward further such proposals, which would of course be subject to further parliamentary scrutiny.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


 
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