The European Union and the United States of America have been to a large extent the pacemakers of especially high standards of maritime safety, and their contribution to safety at sea and prevention of marine pollution is undeniable. To what extent can their action constitute a paradigm to the rest of the international maritime community, without suggesting a compromise of the uniformity sought by international maritime law? The purpose of this study is to provide a European reading of current trends in maritime safety law and policies, on the basis of a comparison between a selective number of instruments adopted by the EU and the US. The author considers that the USs maritime safety laws and regulations have acted as a catalyst or are likely to act as a catalyst for the EU, which is at the present stage a leading sea power. In the light of this assumption, the discussion explores unilateralism and multilateralism in international maritime law and searches for prospects and limitations.