MEPs want criminal sanctions for polluting ships

MEPs voted for illegal pollution by ships, in particular deliberate discharges at sea of waste and cargo residues (such as oil and chemicals), to be made a criminal offence.

On 13 January 2004, MEPs adopted a report drafted by Peter Pex (EPP-ED, Netherlands) on the draft directive on pollution from ships and criminalisation of pollution offences. MEPs took the view that polluters should have to pay a very high price in case of intentional discharges at sea of waste and cargo residues (such as oil and chemicals) or gross negligence leading to maritime pollution. Penalties should be imposed on whoever is deemed responsible - whether it be the master, owner, operator or charterer of a ship or even the 'classification society' [ship inspection body].

MEPs also requested the establishment of a European coastguard to carry out unannounced checks along European coasts in order to ensure an effective application of the directive. They asked the Commission to present a proposal for the creation of such a coastguard as quickly as possible.

The draft directive is designed to prevent environmental disasters similar to the spill from the Prestige oil tanker on 19 November 2002. It will integrate the international rules on ship-source pollution (MARPOL Convention) into Community law. If approved, the amendments adopted by the Parliament would toughen up the rules proposed by the Commission even more.


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