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February 19, 2010

Shipowners face criminal penalties under EU environmental directives

Increasingly demanding EU environmental legislation provides criminal penalties for particular activities by shipowners, operators, masters and crew.

A recent directive set out the circumstances in which ship-source discharges of polluting substances constitute a criminal offense. 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.

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 offense 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.

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 the four directives and can be found in the Publications section of the UK Club website, www.ukpandi.com.


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