Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee,
to Viscount Goschen, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State,
Department of Transport
12395/96 - Draft Directive on the registration of
persons sailing on passenger ships
The above proposal was considered by the Committee at its
meeting yesterday, following earlier scrutiny by Sub-Committee
B. As well as your Explanatory Memorandum of 21 January, the Sub-Committee
considered written evidence on the proposal from the Chamber
of Shipping, the British Ports' Association, the National Union
of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the Consumers'
Association and the Institute of London Underwriters. The Sub-Committee
also saw a copy of a letter provided by the Chamber of Shipping
to the Marine Safety Agency setting out the estimated costs to
As you will see from that evidence, copies of which I attach
to this letter, the ferry operators and the ports are strongly
opposed to the Commission's proposal that operators should be
required to compile detailed passenger lists for all journeys
of more than 20 miles (Article 6 of the draft Directive). They
argue that this requirement would offer little or no safety benefit
but would add considerably to the costs borne by operators and
by ports, while also increasing delays for passengers. Article
6 is also opposed by the underwriters. The RMT and the Consumers'
Association, on the other hand, support the Commission proposal,
which they believe would assist in mounting sea rescues.
The Committee recognises that passenger lists would enable
members of the public to find out whether their relatives had
been involved in an accident, a consideration of greater importance
for transport at sea and in the air, where bodies may be lost
entirely, than on land. We do not believe, however, that this
justifies imposing very considerable costs on the industry when
there is no convincing evidence to suggest that a passenger lists
requirement would save lives. We can foresee circumstances in
which some useful information - most importantly, a list of names
- could be obtained on-shore at reasonable cost, for example by
utilising the machine-readable characteristics of Community passports
or by employing video equipment capable of recording vehicle
licence numbers, and we would be interested to know whether your
Department is undertaking any research into the practicality
of such measures and the potential scope of their application
to passenger ships operating from British ports. We would also
be interested to know what such research the Commission is undertaking.
Nevertheless, until we see convincing evidence that the compilation
of passenger lists is necessary and would not impose disproportionate
costs, we would be prepared to support Community legislation in
this area only to the extent that it involves translating the
provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life
at Sea (SOLAS) into Community law. We would therefore urge the
Government to pursue vigorously in forthcoming negotiations the
position outlined in your Explanatory Memorandum. This letter
lifts the scrutiny reserve, but I would be grateful if you would
keep me informed of progress.
5 March 1997
Memorandum by the British Ports Association
1. The British Ports Association represents 80 United Kingdom
port authorities located throughout the country. Amongst its
membership are included all the main cross-Channel ferry ports.
The terms of the Directive would not only affect these but also
a range of ports providing domestic ferry services.
2. We are very concerned about the effect of certain of the
proposals for registration of passengers as set out by the Commission.
We should make it clear at the outset that we support the overall
intention of the Directive in as much as it increases passenger
safety and the capability of the search and rescue services. For
example, Articles 5 and 7, which are concerned with passenger
numbers and ensuring that these numbers do not exceed a vessel's
certified limit, are sensible measures and establish a common
approach for all European Union ports.
3. Although the Directive is based on the SOLAS
regulations, it makes some significant additions to them. In
particular Article 6 lays down that as from 1 January 1999 passenger
details should be available for passenger journeys which go beyond
a 20 mile limit. Under SOLAS the requirement is that the vessel
should be no further than 20 miles from the nearest land. The
Directive in its current form therefore makes a significant difference
to the number of vessels which will be affected.
4. We have three fundamental objections to the application
of Article 6. Firstly, we believe that the requirement that a
vessel sailed no further than 20 miles from land was sensible
and practical and properly related to the operation of search
and rescue. The extension that the Commission has offered, introducing
the concept of journey length, does not in our opinion increase
safety or the chances of rescue following an incident. The critical
factor has to be the proximity to land, not voyage length.
5. Secondly, there is a basic operational difficulty for
ferry ports. Ferry traffic combines passengers and vehicles making
it extremely difficult to collect information on each passenger
in the way proposed by the Directive. Current booking systems
are not geared to record such details for every passenger, whether
for coaches, other large vehicles or private cars. Our experience
in dealing with coach traffic is that numbers can vary greatly
from initial booking to the time of actual journey; even if the
numbers are the same the individuals involved may have changed.
The problem is quite distinct from that faced by the airlines
who deal exclusively with foot passengers going through individual
security checks and where bookings tend to be made in advance.
6. Thirdly, the requirements of Article 6 do not improve
the safety of passengers. We have already acknowledged the need
to know the number of passengers but we do not understand the
need to know details such as age, initials and gender. We believe
that the disruption caused would be completely out of proportion
to any advantage gained.
7. We are therefore greatly concerned that the Directive
will put an enormous extra burden on ferry ports by creating
delay while information is being checked and rechecked. We understand
that in Sweden where such a system was recently tried out, it
proved impossible to maintain an efficient service and uninterrupted
passenger flows. We hope to be able to supply the Committee with
further details of this experiment. We also hope to be able to
supply information on the costs arising out of the Directive for
a significant cross-Channel port.
8. We agree with the views expressed in the Department of
Transport's Memorandum of 21 January 1997. The Memorandum also
underlines the problems posed by Article 6 and the lack of justification
offered by the Commission. We have been especially concerned
that even as active members of the European Sea Ports Organisation,
to our knowledge the Commission has at no time consulted that
organisation on the effect of the Directive. By contrast the
Department of Transport has consulted us and listened carefully
to our views. We are also very concerned that the opinion of
other Member States takes no account of the opinion of their own
port and shipping sectors. In the Department of Transport's Memorandum
(paragraph 15), there is the statement that France supports the
Commission's proposals. This may be the case for the French government
but we know from our contacts with the French ports organisation,
UPACCIM, that their objections to the Directive are exactly the
same as ours and that they are deeply concerned about its implications.
9. We hope that these views are of value to the Committee.
We shall both nationally and through our European contacts be
pressing for an amendment to the Directive whereby Article 6 is
not applied to ferry journeys.
Supplementary Memorandum by the British Ports Association
1. The statement in paragraph 4 of the evidence submitted
on 11 February supports the view that passenger details (as set
out in Article 6) are acceptable for voyages which go beyond a
twenty mile limit from the nearest land. However, it has been
pointed out that this is not consistent with the views expressed
in paragraph 6, which challenges any need to record such detail
on the basis that it would not assist the rescue services and
would place a disproportionate burden on the ferry ports. We
do not believe, therefore, that Article 6 should be applicable
to journeys beyond the 20 mile limit.
2. The original SOLAS requirements allowed exemptions from
providing detailed information if it was impracticable for records
to be compiled; the Commission's proposals do not allow for such
exemptions and we find this completely unacceptable.
3. We hope this correction and clarification can be taken
Memorandum by the Chamber of Shipping
1. It appears that the Commission has taken little account
of the views expressed by ship operators and the adjustment of
Article 5 to give 30 minutes after departure to collate and communicate
the information will be of little benefit to operators. We still
foresee major problems in implementing the requirements. Turning
to the Directive by clause:
2. This poses no problem unless Article 5 has to be complied
3. The retention of a 20 mile limit seems illogical especially
as it will bring the Dover Strait into the Directive where the
most modern ferries operate under a Vessel Traffic Scheme (VTS)
with search and rescue (SAR) facilities close by.
4. Search and rescue operations operate to standard procedures
using unique equipment. We do not believe that they are able
to vary either their procedures or the equipment used to respond
to a change in passenger mix by either age or gender. We would
be pleased to see and comment upon the full safety case which
purports to justify this requirement.
5. Names - Many group operators are not in possession of
this information until immediately before departure. When large
groups or a large number of individual coaches or groups are carried
(say 1,000 passengers) compiling this information will create
a major bottleneck.
6. First name/Initial, Gender, Age - Same objections as above
and, truthfully, with even less relevance.
7. The requirement to produce the information 30 minutes
post-departure provides no assistance; it will be the collection
of this information that will pose the problem. Further, it is
somewhat incongruous that over half the journey on a Dover/Calais
sailing will have already been completed before this information
is required to be available.
8. Member States may vary the 20 mile threshold mentioned
in Article 5, recognising the particular availability of support,
assistance and rescue facilities as well as the normally prevailing
weather conditions in any particular trading area. Could this
not be applied to the Dover Strait if there is a view that 20
miles from land would be appropriate.
9. Alternatively, paragraph 1 could be deleted entirely and
paragraph 2 could provide the necessary discretion by the deletion
of the phrase "in sheltered waters".
10. Presently cruise ships have full passenger lists for
each leg of a voyage. However if they have an excursion, say
to beach at an EU location (i.e., where no passengers are to disembark
permanently) the vessel assumes that all those who go ashore
return. This Directive would require passengers going ashore temporarily
to be recorded with the process repeated when they embark again
in the evening. This would seriously delay and extend the process
without visibly improving the safety of the passengers.
11. Data collection to the required standard must have a
very considerable impact on the operation of any high frequency
short sea crossing, where port transit time for passengers is
normally expected to be achieved in a matter of minutes if the
operation is to be successful.
12. It will be appreciated from the foregoing that the Chamber
believes that the imposition of this Directive poses major problems
to most operators with no scope to recognise the particular circumstances
which may justify an exemption from those parts of the Directive
which are inappropriate to any particular operation on a route.
For a variety of services, operations will be severely impacted
upon for no increase in safety.
Letter from the Chamber of Shipping
1. The papers that we faxed to you previously summarise
our position very succinctly. However, there is one point which
needs to be stressed, namely this: The Directive will do nothing
per se to improve the safety of passengers on short crossings
and it will be bureaucratic. In the unlikely event of an accident
the first priority is to evacuate passengers using the ample
life-saving equipment provided, using the trained crew on board.
The Search and Rescue (SAR) services will need to know the number
of passengers and crew on board, and that is already available.
2. I would add that other UK routes, including some domestic
ones in Scotland, will be affected, apart from the Dover routes.
Some of the Caledonian MacBrayne services will be included.
3. The 1995 SOLAS Conference agreed Regulation 24.2. In its
Clause 5 it permits administrations to exempt passenger ships
if the "scheduled voyages of such ships render it impracticable
for them to prepare such records". That is quite reasonable
and we would support it as does Her Majesty's Government.
4. It appears that other countries such as Denmark, Sweden
and Germany may well support the UK stance but to date are not
willing, for whatever reason, to say so publicly in Brussels.
I have asked our sister organisations in other EU countries to
try and get more open support for the UK position.
Mr E J N Brookes
Director (Marine Services)
17 February 1997
Letter from the Consumers' Association
Consumers' Association (CA), publisher of Which?
and other consumer magazines and books, is an independent consumer
organisation with around 750,000 members. We have had a long interest
in ferry safety and submitted evidence on this subject to the
House of Commons Transport Select Committee back in June 1995.
We have also contributed to the campaign for safer ferries through
regular publication of reports in Which? magazine. CA
welcomes the opportunity to contribute further to the debate.
CA broadly supports the Commission Proposal for a Council
Directive on the Registration of Persons Sailing on Passenger
Ships. CA considers it to be an acknowledgement of the urgent
need to improve search and rescue possibilities. We consider
this proposal to be a necessary humanitarian measure which will
enable relatives to identify passengers quickly in the event
of an accident and also help with practical concerns such as insurance
claims after the event. On these grounds alone we support the
proposal, but consider further measures are still needed to improve
CA acknowledges the attempts made by the Commission to ensure
that safety checks do not create unnecessary delays for passengers.
We would urge the Commission to explore ways in which registration
information can be collated in a speedy manner with the least
possible disruption to passengers. Opportunities to do this may
exist at the time of booking tickets, or at other pre-departure
times when passengers are not actually in the process of boarding
14 February 1997
Letter from the Institute of London Underwriters
We are replying on behalf of the British Insurers' International
Commission to your letter of 7 February as marine insurers (members
of the Institute of London Underwriters) and note the details
of the draft Directive on the registration of persons sailing
on passenger ships (12395/96). Since insurers' main concern is
the safety of ship, passengers and cargo, they endorse the comments
of Articles 5 and 7 which seem fundamental and important.
They feel the details of Article 6 are too exhaustive for
short sea ferry voyages and could lead to confusion, delays and
possible abuse. It would seem that information as to the need
for special care or assistance in an emergency situation is a
common sense issue and would normally be made clear at the time
The other articles are primarily of interest to the shipping
operators and only become a concern of marine insurers if delays
on leaving and arrival in port lead to congestion and confusion
of both vessels themselves and their passengers.
A S Nunn
Governmental and International Affairs Adviser
12 February 1997
Letter from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and
I write with reference to your letter dated 7 February 1997.
Having considered this matter the Union believes that there
is merit in compiling the list as proposed under the European
Community Directive. Information on the ages of the passengers
on board a vessel would be very useful in the event of an emergency
at sea especially if a rescue operation had to be planned. Clearly,
if the age profile of the passengers was high, a rescue operation
would need to be carefully planned and extra personnel would
need to be deployed.
However the implementation of this Directive will clearly
impact upon the ferry operators' turnaround times and the Union
would not wish to see shipping companies being forced into a position
where the number of trips are reduced.
The Union would therefore broadly support the application
of the Directive but in such a way that does not impact too greatly
upon the ferry companies' day-to-day operations.
I hope this information assists.
Mr James Knapp
13 February 1997
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