UK newspapers have been publishing a steady stream of reports of the nonsensical consequences of Health & Safety regulations and the way they are interpreted, but this is just one facet of a worldwide trend towards regulation and micro-management. Mainland Europe is suffering, too – and it is affecting the operation of tall ships and other historic vessels.
Have you noticed that some tall ships fly a black flag with a question mark on it, rather like a pirate flag? Here’s why.
Back in 2000, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued recommendation No 1468, which asked European Community governments to:
- Support and encourage private bodies which preserve historic vessels
- Encourage the display of these vessels for the general public
- Encourage further development of a system of mutual acceptability by the maritime authorities of nation states of standards for the safe operation of traditional vessels
In 2000, most important European seafaring nations reached consensus on the basic rules for the operation of traditional vessels, and agreed to mutually recognise national provisions in this field. They issued a Memorandum of Understanding intended to ensure that traditional vessels and their crews could move freely in and out of European ports and national waters.
However, very little was done. For example, modern fire safety regulations for commercial ships forbid the use of wood below decks: any port that enforces this regulation will refuse access to almost every traditional ship.
In 2008, the Baltic Sail Conference, held in the ancient Hanseatic port of Rostock, issued the Rostock Declaration calling on all responsible persons to:
- Use their influence to solve the problem of the acceptance of national regulations for traditional ships (on international voyages)
- Use their influence to urge governments to work together to establish a European Maritime Policy for traditional ships.
Want to know a bit more? Take a look at the Black Flag flyer