MEPs push for stricter fines for shipowners over illegal sewage and garbage discharge

Proposed rules will make member states step up and protect European seas from the harmful effects of ships illegally dumping waste

EU member states with large shipping registers like Malta will have to step up on pollution rules, under new rules proposed by MEPs from the European Parliament’s transport committee.

A vote this week will take a proposal to the plenary, to extend current EU rules prohibiting the discharge of oil and noxious liquid substances from ships, to also include the discharge of sewage, garbage, and residues from scrubbers.

The MEPs said ships in EU seas must face dissuasive fines not only for oil spills, but also for sewage and garbage discharge, with international IMO standards applied to prevent illegal discharges from ships, to become part of EU law.

“The current EU rules do not work, because they are weakly applied by member states,” said Romanian rapporteur Marian-Jean Marinesco (EPP). “This is unacceptable. It is time for member states to step up and protect European seas from the harmful effects of ships illegally dumping waste. It is necessary to effectively detect illegal discharges and set penalties at levels that serve as a real deterrent.”

The proposed rules will make ship-owners bear the responsibility for any environmental damage caused by ship pollution, in case the master or crew responsible for the illegal discharge can no longer be found or cannot afford to pay the full amount of the penalty.

MEPs also want EU governments to avoid setting maximum or minimum penalties for infringements to ensure that the effectiveness and proportionality of penalties are not undermined.

Current EU rules have been responsible for the introduction of the CleanSeaNet, a European satellite-based alert system for oil spill and vessel detection. Because this system lacks reporting on how pollution incidents were followed up, the Transport MEPs are in favour of encouraging more information exchange between member states and the Commission on pollution incidents.

They also want 50% of CleanSeaNet alerts to be verified on the spot and as soon as possible, to prevent an illegal discharge from dispersing and therefore becoming undetectable by the time of arrival on the location.

A draft negotiating mandate was this week approved by 36 votes to one, and talks will now start with member states on the final shape of the legislation, once plenary gives its green light.


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