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Purpose and functioning

The EMH-Safety Council is concerned with the safe operation of traditional ships. Safety, especially in the western world is of enormous importance. We, the society at large, try to avoid accidents by setting safety standards. We try to learn from accidents and mistakes by analysing them and adjusting rules and demanding new safety requirements if necessary. It is a dynamic process that will never end.
The owners of traditional ships take part in this process but modern safety standards are often at odds with the keeping of traditional ships. Modern safety standards tend to be uniform (easy to uphold) and aimed at majorities.

The EMH Safety Council tries to keep abreast of developments, particularly where new laws are concerned. The Council assesses new rules and requirements and their applicability to traditional ships. New safety rules are often directed at ships of a much larger size and, of course, built to modern standards. Another problem with safety requirements is that they not always serve a safety purpose alone. Regularly they are used as a means to create a level playing field for more conventional forms of marine activity. Traditional ships do not operate in the same ‘field’ but occupy a field of their own.

The EMH Safety Council informs and advises the EMH Executive Committee on all matters related to safety. The Council offers advice, for example, to lawmakers or governments about the consequences of new rules for traditional ships. EMH tries to influence the law making process and to keep the balance between heritage preservation and modern safety demands.

The Council consists of representatives from various member organisations or nations.
(See for members of the Safety Council of EMH)


The EMH Safety Council takes special interest in intra European voyages of traditional ships.
Since most European administrations have exempted traditional ships from the international safety standard for passenger ships,(SOLAS), ships are operated under national safety regimes. These national certificates tend to cause problems when visiting other countries
The “Memorandum of Understanding on the mutual recognition of certificates for the safe operation of traditional ships in European waters and of certificates of competency for crews on traditional ships”, or in short, the MoU, tries to put an end to these problems.

The MoU was signed on Sept 8th 2000 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, by Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, U.K., The Netherlands and Spain. The MoU is an expression of confidence Signatory States have in each other’s national safety regimes and aims at making Port State Control inspections easier. The MoU was supported by EU-DG 7 (DG Move), France, Belgium and Poland, who also participated in the preparatory conferences, but did not sign.

The MoU is an open process; other European countries are invited to join the agreement. The MoU Committee of signatory states meet annually. EMH attends these meetings and has an observing and advising role.

The documents (1-10) of the MOU signed 28 November 2005 in London:

1 Cover Page
2 Signatories (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom)
3 Memorandum of Understanding
4 Annex I, Document of Compliance
5 Annex II, Standard upon Safe Operation of Traditional Ships
6 Annex II.1, Minimum Requirements for Certification
7 Annex II.2, Guidance for the Implementation of a Safety Management System
8 Annex III, Recommendation for a Common Practice for the Performance of Day Trips
9 Attachment, Barcelona Charter
10 Attachment, Definition of Near Coastel Voyages


Erik Eklund took over the chair of the MoU Committee from Per Nordström (September2012)

Lithuania new member MoU (24 March 2012)

The Lituanian Maritime Safety Administration joined the MoU.
The Chairman of the MoU, Per Nordström accepted Lituania as a new member and the signature on the application letter should be regarded as a signatory of the MoU. Welcome to Lithuania.

EC Public consultation is opened. (18 April 2012)

The public consultation window is opened. Through this process the European Commission wants to learn the opinion of the general public on issues concerning the safety regulations for sea going passenger ships in the broadest sense. The subject is not limited to convention (SOLAS) passenger ships or ships now covered by Directive 2009/45 (formerly known as 98/18) but also concerns sailing ships, historical ships and ships other than steel ships.

An EMH delegation will travel to Brussels Tuesday 24th April to present the case of EMH in more abstract terms and to learn more about the procedure and how we can contribute to the success of it. We will get back to you shortly afterwards and possibly with a suggestion for a plan of joint action.

See for information:

Rules for historical vessels and sailing vessels (Februari 2012)

The European industry consultation will probably start end of march 2012 end will last for three months. The consultation will most probably be in the form of questions asked (instead of the publication of the entire revised directive). The Commission is willing to invite EMH for a meeting during the three months consultation window. What will happen with the industries input will not be known until September when the proposal for the revised Directive will be presented to the European parliament and Council.

It may be wise for the Safety Council to meet shortly after the beginning of the consultation period.

Sweden takes over chair from UK (May 2011)

David Ralph, current chairman of the MoU Committee will pass the gavel to Mr. Per Nordstrom from the Swedish Maritime Authority at the next meeting in 2012. This was decided during the MoU meeting in London in May 2011. David Ralph has served as a chairman for more then five years. He succeeded in getting more Europeans nations interested and involved in the MoU.

Committee on Safe Seas (May 2011)

The Committee on safe Seas (COSS) has taken up the revision of European Directive 2009/45 for passenger ships on domestic voyages. The COSS, chaired by the European Commission and attended by Member State delegations, has so far identified three ship categories having problems complying with (or being excluded from) the Directive: small ships, historical ships and sailing ships.
The COSS aims at finishing the revision mid 2012.
EMH has always advocated a common European solution for traditional ships and for securing possibilities to voyage internationally. It has informed the European Commission of its wishes on several occasions. The Commission has incorporated some of these wishes in the Green Book. The revision of directive 2009/45 may offer a great opportunity to accomplish one of EMH’s goals when its scope is altered and intra European voyages are made possible. The Safety Council will closely monitor developments and see to it that the safety standard will not ruin the European fleet but will further secure its future.

Maritime Labour Convention (March 2011)

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) aims at putting an end to the miserable working conditions of many seafarers in the international merchant fleet. Under the auspices of the ILO new minimum standards are set for crew accommodation, food, wages, leave arrangements and other fundamental rights common for Europeans but not so much for many others.

The MLC serves a commendable purpose but presents lots of traditional ships with great problems. “Ships of traditional build” may be exempted from the Convention but with such a widely interpretable term difficulties at Port State Control are not unlikely.
The MLC especially holds difficulties for sail training vessels since the MLC does not distinguish between the various types of seafarers. A trainee (also a seafarer according to the MLC definition) has the same rights and obligations as a crewmember. One can imagine the amount of problems that occur when a paying visitor is suddenly seen as a paid employee. The most obvious one is that the trainee must be paid a minimum wage.

The willingness of flag states to find practical solutions to these sorts of problems when implementing the convention in national law may vary.

International Ship reporting obligations (March 2011)

The Paris MoU on Port State Control requires all ships (irrespective of size and operation) to notify port authorities 24 hours before the expected time of arrival. Penalties for not complying can be as high as several thousand euros.