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News from Europe

20 July 2018

Maritime transport: Commission refers Ireland to the Court for failing to correctly implement safety legislation

The European Commission decided today to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to correctly implement EU law establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in maritime transport (Directive 2009/18/EC).

The Directive requires that each Member State establishes an impartial permanent investigative body, which should be independent in its organisation, legal structure and decision-making of any party whose interests could conflict with the task entrusted to it.

The Commission has a number of concerns regarding the independence of the members of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) established under Irish law. Irish law provides that one of the fivemembers of the Board is the Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) or his or her nominee while another is the Chief Surveyor of the Marine Survey Office (MSO).

The Marine Survey Office however has regulatory, administrative and enforcement functions with regard to ships, their equipment as well as seafarers' competence. As for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, it is responsible, inter alia, for maritime safety policy.

The Commission takes the view that the responsibilities and activities of the DTTAS and the MSO could conflict with the investigative task of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. It follows that the
Marine Casualty Investigation Board lacks the necessary independence from those Irish authorities.