In the North Sea, one of the world’s busiest areas for shipping, up to 40% of marine litter comes from the maritime sector. In Europe, it has been estimated that around 20,000 tonnes of waste is dumped each year in the North Sea. In the Netherlands as much as 90% of the plastic found on beaches originates from shipping and fisheries.


Port reception facilities are the waste disposal facilities provided for ships by port authorities. If these facilities are inadequate, complicated to use or simply too expensive, then it provides ship operators and crews with an incentive to dump their garbage at sea instead. This is illegal in most cases but once at sea they are unlikely to be detected by authorities.

In the EU the port waste reception facilities are governed by EU Directive 2000/59/EC which states that all ports must provide adequate reception facilities for ships waste and recoup the costs through a certain amount of indirect fee.

The directive is not prescriptive enough, and has led to a wide range of waste reception systems across Europe. There is evidence to show that this confusion is contributing to ship waste dumping. Seas At Risk believes that only through a European wide, harmonisation of port reception facilities will we end ship waste dumping. The PRF Directive is up for review, and we will be working to ensure that the problems associated with it and the environmental impacts of the directive’s poor performance are fixed.

As part of our work on ship sourced marine litter, Seas At Risk calls for:

  • A ‘one-stop-shop’ approach that places administrative responsibility for waste reception with the port authority. This will reduce confusion for shipping agents and aid in enforcement and data collection.
  • 100% Indirect fee – all ships calling at port must pay the same fee regardless of whether they use the facilities or not.
  • Individual ship waste inspections – to identify polluters and aid enforcement.
  • Mandatory waste discharge for all vessels.
  • Reception facilities for fishermen to dispose of their old gear and prevent dumping at sea.

More information

Recommendations to improve the EU Port Reception Facilities Directive (pdf), Institute for European Environmental Policy, London report produced for Seas At Risk.

SAR Position Paper for the 2011 public consultation on the Port Reception Facilities Directive (pdf)