The European Maritime Safety Agency is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Based in Lisbon, the Agency provides technical assistance and support to the European Commission and Member States in the development and implementation of EU legislation on maritime safety, pollution by ships and maritime security. It has also been given operational tasks in the field of oil pollution response, vessel monitoring and in long range identification and tracking of vessels.
A major political impetus to the setting up of EMSA in 2003 was the fallout from the Erika (1999) and the Prestige (2002) accidents and their resulting oil spills. These incidents resulted in huge environmental and economic damage to the coastlines of Spain and France. They also acted as a reminder to decision-makers that Europe needed to invest in better preparation for a large-scale oil spill, i.e. above-and-beyond the resources available at individual Member State level.
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