The Maritime Prefect in France has been given greater responsibility and powers to name a port for a vessel in distress.
In February this year the French government incorporated a European Directive into its national legislation to ensure that a vessel is not denied access to a port of refuge. The directive formed part of the Erika III package adopted in 2009.
There are three Maritime Prefects in France who can name a specific port. The prefecture for the English Channel is based in Cherbourg, the second one, in charge of the Atlantic coast, is based in Brest, and the third one, in Toulon, is in charge of the Mediterranean Sea.
The result of these changes is that a ship in serious trouble should get a quick decision on a port of refuge.