image of a fishing boat at port

European port fee change needed to stop dumping at sea

A minor change to port fee regulations will deliver massive benefits to the health of European seas and marine life and address a €360 million-problem, lawyers say.

Legal experts from environmental law charity ClientEarth are calling on the European Parliament to support plans for ports to charge a fixed fee to manage waste from incoming ships, to remove the incentive for operators to dump at sea.

The European Commission is proposing streamlining the Port Reception Facilities Directive, to charge a flat fee based on a ship’s size, rather than the amount of waste it brings in. An impact assessment of the proposal estimates even such a small change in waste delivery would have significant environmental benefits.

ClientEarth wildlife lawyer Tatiana Lujan, said: “Ships dumping waste at sea are major contributors to the marine litter that is literally choking our fragile marine environments.

“But we cannot expect this situation to improve when incentives remain for operators to dump their waste at sea, rather than bring it to port for handling and recovery.

“Currently there are several different models for ports across Europe to charge for receiving waste. Streamlining regulations across the board to include a flat or fixed fee will provide certainty to the fishing industry while introducing a powerful mechanism to protect our seas and marine life.”

Waste from ships is a major source of marine litter, with serious environmental and economic impacts. Annual clean-up costs associated with waste pollution from ships are estimated to be between €357 million and €597 million.

Each percentage point of increased dumping at sea can result in up to €2.3 million of beach clean-up costs, up to €1.6 million of damages to the fishing sector and incalculable damage to marine ecosystems.

ClientEarth also supports amendments to the proposal recommended by the EU Parliamentary Committee for the Environment. These include extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes with ‘eco-modulated’ fees – this means that fees increase for gear that are more harmful to the environment – for fishing gear, as well as deposit return schemes to encourage delivery of fishing gear at the end of its life.

Currently, ports across the EU apply different models of cost recovery, ranging from 100% indirect fees charged to ships irrespective of their use of facilities, to 100% direct fees based on volumes of waste discharged.

The Commission’s proposed directive will streamline the regulations and align legislation with the global maritime agreement MARPOL, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

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Thomas Millot

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