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ISU addresses European Parliament on “Places of Refuge” and welcomes progress on European Union Operational Guidelines

Issued 27th January 2016

The International Salvage Union (ISU) has welcomed the European Union Declaration supporting the implementation of new Operational Guidelines on Places of Refuge. ISU immediate past President, Leendert Muller, speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels, congratulated the Commission and officials on the initiative and thanked them for involving ISU and other shipping industry bodies in the development of the guidelines.

ISU has been campaigning on the issue for many years and joined forces with the International Chamber of Shipping; the International Union of Marine Insurance and the International Group of P&I Clubs to press for improvement internationally. It came after the case of the fire-damaged MSC Flaminia in the eastern Atlantic. It was weeks before she was admitted to a European port.

Mr Muller said that salvage is a vital part of the shipping industry and that members of the ISU typically conduct some 250 operations each year with the priority being to save live then to protect the environment and then to save property. Mr Muller added that many of the operations are hazardous and beyond the capacity of any other agency to conduct. He said: “Salvors often stand between a damaged or immobilized vessel and an environmental catastrophe. Every year our members save ships from peril that, together, are carrying more than a million tonnes of potential pollutants. It is more than twenty times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.”

ISU has acknowledged that it is a very difficult decision to bring a damaged vessel closer to shore or to port and that the risk of pollution cannot be eradicated. However a damaged vessel often needs to be brought to a Place of Refuge where her condition can be stabilised.

Mr Muller said the EU Operational Guidelines will “go a long way to improving the situation in the important and busy waters of the Member States of the European Union”. In particular, he said, “salvors welcome the statement that ‘unless unsafe there should be no rejection of a casualty vessel without inspection’ ”.

ISU is encouraging the European Union to take a global leadership position on this issue: salvors frequently experience difficulty with regard to Places of Refuge in other parts of the world and it hopes the influence of the EU will bring more progress internationally. The cases of the Maritime Maisie – a burning chemical tanker which the authorities in the Far East refused to assist; another case in the Far East, the Eastern Amber and the Stolt Valor in the Middle East have all demonstrated in recent years the need for improvement.