European Ports Call for More Polluter-Pays Provisions


Published May 10, 2018 8:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ship waste has been a key environmental priority for E.U. ports, and the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) has published a position paper on the revision of the Port Reception Facilities Directive, welcoming the progress made but noting that more needs to be done to support a polluter-pays approach.

The existing Directive 2000/59 has contributed to decreasing significantly waste discharges at sea. The minimum fixed fee, which has to be paid by all ships calling at E.U. ports, regardless of whether they use the waste facilities or of the quantities they deliver, has delivered, says ESPO. As a result, only 2.5 percent of oily waste is not delivered at waste facilities in ports.

ESPO says the new Directive should make sure that an efficient but responsible regime for managing ship waste is encouraged, in line with the polluter-pays principle.

“European ports recognize that providing the right incentives is essential and port authorities are certainly willing to contribute,” says ESPO’s Secretary General, Isabelle Ryckbost. “However, introducing a fee system whereby ships could deliver unreasonable amounts of garbage, including dangerous waste for 100 percent fixed fee, would be a severe and unacceptable divergence from the principle. It risks discouraging tackling waste at the source by reducing waste volumes on board, which has been the cornerstone of the E.U. waste policy.”

ESPO therefore proposes to set a limit on waste covered by the 100 percent fixed fee. The fixed (flat) fee should cover normal quantities of waste delivered by a certain type and size of ship. Ports should be allowed to charge on top of that if unreasonable quantities are delivered. Furthermore, dangerous waste, which usually needs special and costly treatment, should not be covered by the 100 percent indirect fee.

Under the existing Directive, voluntary application of reduced fees is already possible for vessels that demonstrate good waste management practices (beyond the required standards) that in turn lead to the generation of reduced quantities of waste. According to the ESPO Sustainability Report 2017, half of the European ports provide rebates for green ships, and many of them take into account the ships’ waste policy.

However, the new proposal aims to introduce mandatory reduced fees for ships which are expected to produce less waste and manage waste in an environmentally sound manner. This fails to take into account that the waste fee system is already highly regulated, says ESPO. The introduction of mandatory rebates would be an unreasonable interference with ports’ strategy to award ships that perform beyond standards set by law on the basis of their own priorities. It would also fail to take into account different business and governance models implemented in ports across Europe. Any rebate, if not corresponding to a real cost reduction, has to be borne by the port authority. Not all port managing bodies have the financial ability to cover this cost and to give rebates. 

ESPO therefore proposes to maintain the voluntary application of reduced fees for vessels generating reduced quantities of waste.

European ports believe that any provisions leading to better enforcement of the obligation for ships to deliver waste at shore are welcome. The alignment of specific elements of the Directive with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is supported by ESPO. European ports also welcome that new types of waste, such as scrubber waste, have been addressed by the proposal.

The proposal is currently being discussed in the E.U. Council and the European Parliament.