20th June

European Court of Justice rules on safety tonnage applications


The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice has ruled (June 14) to reject an appeal by the Commission to annul the General Court’s decision of 2014. The General Court had annulled the Commission’s decision of 2010 rejecting some applications for Irish safety tonnage by members of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation. This is the third time that the safety tonnage applicants have been successful in the EU Court of Justice; the first time in 2006, followed by 2014.

This is a long-running saga which commenced almost fifteen years ago. The Court’s decision was to reject the Commission’s appeal and order the Commission to pay costs. The Court ruling also notes that the applicants had the right to bring an action for damages against the European Union relying on the illegality of the Commission’s initial decision. Safety tonnage, which relates to the volume of the vessel not to tonnes of fish, covers enhanced safety measures on aboard a fishing vessel such as shelter decks, raised wheelhouses,  increasing the freeboard and improvements to crew accommodation.

The Chief Executive of the KFO Sean O’Donoghue said on hearing the ruling:-

“I am delighted but not surprised in light of the Advocate General’s opinion given in January 2016 that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice has ruled to reject the Commission appeal to General Court’s decision of 2014. I wish to congratulate the owners on the outcome and for the courage to appeal the Commission’s flawed decisions in the first instance, and to continue this long and very arduous battle relating to their safety tonnage applications.

I also wish to thank the excellent legal team of Eileen Barrington SC and Noel Travers SC and DP Barry & Company Solicitors for a job well done,"  remarked Sean O'Donoghue, chief executive of the KFO.

"This has gone on far too long - almost fifteen years with the Commission continually trying to find ways to thwart and delay the very necessary and legitimate safety tonnage applications. I am now calling on the Commission in light of this third ruling by the Grand Chamber against them to immediately rectify the situation to satisfaction of the applicants.”

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