On 23 October 2017, the Council of the European Union adopted three directives which revise and reinforce EU passenger ship safety rules and standards, digitalise the registration of ship passengers and create a clear framework for the inspection of ro-ro ferries and high-speed passenger craft. The adopted package ensures that the rules are clear, proportionate and deliver a common level of safety for EU citizens. The European Commission welcomed the final adoption by the Council of the EU. Indeed, the adopted package is a result of proposals made by the Commission in June 2016, as a follow-up to the recommendations of the fitness check driven by the Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) Programme.

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2009/45/EC on safety rules and standards for passenger ships (2016/0170 (COD)) contains the most extensive rules on passenger ship safety in the EU, applicable to vessels travelling on domestic routes. The text sets out detailed technical requirements for ships with regard to areas such as construction, stability and fire protection.

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 98/41/EC on the registration of persons sailing on board passenger ships operating to or from ports of the Member States of the Community and amending Directive 2010/65/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States (2016/0171 (COD)) requires shipping companies to digitalise the registration of ship passengers, so that the exact number of passengers and other information will be immediately available for search and rescue services in the event of an accident.

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on a system of inspections for the safe operation of ro-ro ferry and high-speed passenger craft in regular service and amending Directive 2009/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on port State control and repealing Council Directive 1999/35/EC (2016/0172 (COD)) eliminates overlaps and closes regulatory gaps arising from the application by Member States of different inspection regimes for these vessels.

The publication on the EU Official Journal of the three directives is expected by the end of 2017. They will enter into force 20 days after publication, and Member States will then have two years to incorporate the new rules into their national law.