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Criminal penalties in prospect for ship operators and crew

  22.02.2010    

Ship owners and charterers have to reckon with increasingly demanding EU environmental legislation impacting on their operations. This encompasses criminal consequences for particular activities by owners, operators, masters and crew.
A recent directive set out the circumstances in which ship-source discharges of polluting substances constitute a criminal offence. In November and December, three more directives are due to be implemented. Two are concerned with the provision of penalties by individual countries for specific shortcomings in respect of pollution and environmental protection; and a third with waste, including marine transportation and discharge at sea. 
Consequently, the UK P&I Club has published a summary of the main existing legislation and new developments in its Legal Briefing “An update on EU environmental legislation” (February 2010). It provides a useful comparison of liabilities and sanctions arising from four recent EU directives, encompassing their scope and implementation, with key features set out in tabular format.      
*Directive 2005/35 had to be implemented by member states by March 2007. This states that ship-source discharges of polluting substances constitute a criminal offence if committed with intent, recklessly or by serious negligence.  
*Directive 2009/123 obliges member states to provide for criminal penalties for discharging of polluting substances (as per the earlier directive).
*Directive 2008/99 also requires states to institute criminal penalties for serious infringements of EU laws on protecting the environment.
*Directive 2008/98 consolidates and updates EU law on all aspects of waste. It says ships  may be considered “waste producers” and “waste holders” and indicates owners’ and charterers’ responsibilities in shipwrecks and spillages.


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