The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is celebrating the 2013 World Maritime Day (26th September) with a focus on sustainable development.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is celebrating the 2013 World Maritime Day (26th September) with a focus on sustainable development.

As they point out in their World Maritime Day message, the maritime sector is a vital link in the global supply chain that is so essential to our economy. For this important industry to become ‘sustainable’ surely every effort should be made to ensure that pollution and effects on the marine environment are kept to a minimum?

Marine litter is a globally recognized problem, one with effects ranging from the negative aesthetic of rubbish on a beach, to microscopic accumulation of toxic chemicals that can be ingested by marine life and potentially end up in our food chain.

A significant part of the litter in our oceans has come from global shipping and fishing. At every port a ship calls in to, they are required through international and EU law to discharge all rubbish to that port’s waste reception facilities, to ensure the crew does not dump at sea. In Europe, this is governed by the port reception facilities directive (2000/59/EC) which prescribes how this waste delivery is handled.

Despite this legislation, the main aim of which is to end ship dumping at sea, dumping is still occurring, contributing to marine litter worldwide.

A study commissioned by Seas At Risk to the IEEP has analysed the wide variety of ship waste delivery systems in the EU, and suggest the requirements of the directive need to be strengthened.

The study finds that the multitude of different systems of waste reporting, delivery and payment is creating confusion amongst shipping companies and could be contributing to waste dumping. The report calls for a greater involvement of Port Authorities in managing ship waste, by creating a ‘one stop shop’ approach, becoming the central point of contact for waste contractors and shipping agents. They should also be in control of waste notification systems so that any discrepancies can be discovered, to try to end the current perception that any polluting crimes will go undiscovered.

The report also makes the case for a 100% indirect fee system throughout Europe. This fee would be applied to all ships entering port regardless of whether they use the waste disposal facilities and by what extent. This is to remove any incentive for ships to dump at sea as they will have to pay for the facilities anyway.

Article 8 of the PRF Directive states that the waste fee system must not provide any incentive to discharge ship waste into the sea, and that a ‘significant’ part of the waste fee shall be paid by all ships calling at ports, irrespective of waste delivery. This has led to many different payment structures across Europe, contributing to the general confusion.

The IEEP report recommends that a 100% indirect fee system for ship generated waste and defined hazardous substances should be implemented in ALL European ports as it seems to provide the best incentive for waste delivery. Any limit on volumes should be such that this is used only in truly exceptional circumstances.

With the focus on sustainable development this World Maritime Day, let us hope that the EU takes notice and tackles this source of pollution to create a more sustainable European shipping sector.

By Emma Priestland, Policy Officer, Seas At Risk

IEEP report marine litter

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