MaltaToday | 1 June 2008 | Malta implements ship-source pollution laws

NEWS | Sunday, 1 June 2008

Malta implements ship-source pollution laws

Matthew Vella

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has enacted the European Directive on ship-source pollution, one year after its mandatory transposition, and after the Maltese government had first opposed the directive on grounds of discriminatory penalties for EU and non-EU countries.
The laws on ship source pollution were a reaction to the great environmental disasters of the Prestige in 2002, and of the Maltese-registered Erika in 1999 in the Bay of Biscay off France.
Malta, the world’s fourth largest flag state, had objected to the EU proposal, arguing that allowing non-EU ships not to be liable to imprisonment would lead to vessel owners switching registration over to non-EU states.
The EU directive enforces the international rules on ship-source pollution by getting member states to apply penalties whenever these rules are breached.
Discharges of oil or other noxious substances from ships will be punished if committed with intent, recklessly or as a result of grossly negligent behaviour, with fines ranging from €12,000 up to four years’ imprisonment.
If the person found guilty of the offence is the director, manager, secretary or a principle officer of the ship’s corporate company, they will be liable to a fine ranging from €150,000 to €1.5 million, depending on the gravity of the crime.
Discharging polluting substances will be an offence if carried out in internal waters, such as member states’ ports, member states’ territorial waters, straits used for international navigation subject to the regime of transit passage, member states’ exclusive economic zones, and the high seas.
The regime applies to discharges by any ship, irrespective of its flag state – except warships or state-owned ships when used on non-commercial, government service.
If a ship makes an illegal discharge in one member state and then calls in a port of another member state, the two states must cooperate on the matter.
Malta will have to report to the Commission on the application of the directive every three years.

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