The Port Reception Facilities (PRF) Directive is due to be reviewed by 2014, and Seas At Risk has been working with IEEP to identify how the Directive can be improved to effectively tackle a significant source of marine litter.

The Port Reception Facilities (PRF) Directive is due to be reviewed by 2014, and Seas At Risk has been working with IEEP to identify how the Directive can be improved to effectively tackle a significant source of marine litter.

Putting more waste management responsibility with the Port Authorities and introducing a ‘no special fee’ approach are among the key recommendations.

It has been estimated that up to 20% of marine litter is ship sourced, although figures vary by region; in the North Sea for instance this percentage is much higher as it is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The PRF Directive is designed to regulate the disposal of ship’s waste while in port and to transpose into EU law specific elements of the MARPOL Convention which aims to regulate pollution discharges at sea. However, due to a lack of enforcement on ships while at sea, and the wide range of interpretations of the PRF Directive by ports, there is a general confusion in Europe and often waste is simply thrown overboard by ship’s crews for simplicity.

The study ‘Reducing ship generated marine litter – recommendations to improve the EU port reception facilities directive’ identifies gaps in the legislation that if closed, could ensure easy and effective delivery of waste in order to reduce the chances of illegal dumping. The key recommendation is that Port Authorities should take greater responsibility for waste deliveries.

Currently, waste disposal is controlled by private operators, with the Port Authorities having little input. A centralised management of waste disposal would allow ship waste delivery to be monitored, would ensure better data collection for the European Commission, thus making the PRF Directive easier to enforce.

The report also recommends implementing a ‘one stop shop’ approach, where all types of waste are handled by the same operator, with the Port Authority in charge of notification, receipt issuing and money handling.

Another vital recommendation is the ‘no special fee’ approach, where all ships calling at the port must pay the same waste handling fees, regardless of whether and how much they use the facilities. This removes any incentive for ships to dump waste at sea, and will also keep costs and administrative burden to a minimum.

Together with other member organisations, SAR will be pushing for a full review of the legislation, with legally binding changes to ensure uniformity across the EU.


Øhlenschlæger, JP, Newman, S and Farmer, A. (2013). Reducing ship generated marine litter - Recommendations to improve the EU Port Reception Facilities Directive. Report produced for Seas At Risk. Institute for European Environmental Policy, London.