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Commission proposes to strengthen security in European ports

The Commission proposed a new European-wide framework to enhance port security. Ports are…

The Commission proposed a new European-wide framework to enhance port security. Ports are particularly vulnerable parts of the logistics chain. Should they be successfully attacked by terrorists, consequences would be felt well beyond their narrow confines. This new proposal aims at complementing the security system by ensuring that all European port areas benefit from a European-wide security scheme. It builds on the Commission`s May 2003 Communication on maritime security and on the recent agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on a European system of maritime security. With this proposal we are aiming to raise another important piece of the Community`s defences against intentional illegal acts, said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for transport and energy. She added: Ports must be protected as much as possible against unlawful, illegal acts, including terrorist attacks. They must not be easy targets because too much is at stake: passengers, vessels, national and international trade, and essential installations.

The newly proposed directive aims at establishing an EU-wide framework for port security. It will complement the maritime security measures about to be adopted(1) so as to avoid a fragmentation of security efforts, ensure comprehensive security coverage and do so with minimal additional burdens for ports and port users.

In line with international commitments, the recently approved system of maritime security only covers the vessels themselves and the terminal areas of the ports, i.e. where the vessels are loaded and unloaded. Ports, however, go far beyond this relatively narrow strip of land; they are vulnerable in all their constituent parts.

The Commission thus proposes that:

  • ports carry out a security assessment in order to decide what security measures are required, where and when;

  • ports establish a port security plan which outlines all measures and details for enhancing port security;

  • a port security officer who co-ordinates security measures should be nominated;

  • a security authority be identified for supervising security measures and establishing the links between the political level and security measures on the ground;

  • different security levels should be established.

Although ports in general already address security issues, they do this in a hitherto uncoordinated way which inevitably leads to a less-than-best use of resources and experience. In a number of cases, security measures might be less than optimal. An EU-wide port security framework should help establish a most efficient and effective security network between European ports which, in turn, would enhance the high standing European ports already generally enjoy.

(1) European Parliament First Reading on 19/11/2003