Industry Coalition Challenge EU Pollution Directive in European Court of Justice

An international coalitions, consisting of INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee, Lloyd's Register, and the International Salvage Union, presented its arguments against a European Union (EU) pollution rule in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday, September 25. The coalition argued that the directive, which allows the EU to impose penalties on ship captains, owners, and charterers who are guilty of pollution, is against international law. An INTERTANKO press release describes the pollution law: "The Directive, which seeks to criminalise accidental pollution, has proved to be controversial from both the legal and practical standpoints."

The directive, created in response to the disaster of the Prestige, became effective in April of this year. However, even prior to its effective date, the coalition had brought the case against the U.K.'s Secretary of State for Transport in the Administrative Court of the English High Court. According to an INTERTANKO press release, "Judgment was granted in favour of the industry coalition in July 2006. The High Court had directed that the case be transferred to the ECJ as that Court has the sole power to rule on the validity of a piece of EU legislation."

Thirteen ECJ judges, the maximum possible, as well as the Advocate General, were assigned to preside over the case as the Grand Chamber of the Court. According to INTERTANKO, "Approximately three quarters of all the cases brought before the Court are heard by a Chamber of three judges. Thus it is clear that the Court views the case as one of great importance." Professor Christopher Greenwood QC CMG and Hugh Mercer of counsel, instructed by Colin de la Rue of Ince & Co represented the coalition.

When MarEx went online, no official statements regarding the results of the hearing had yet been released. However, according to INTERTANKO, many EU Member States, including Cyprus, Greece, and Malta, support the coalition's objections. For more background information on the coalition's case, please click here.