Be alert to the increased risk of criminalisation arising from new MARPOL rules
New international regulations to protect the marine environment could expose seafarers to even greater risk of criminalisation, Nautilus is warning.
The Union says crew members need to be aware of the responsibilities placed on them by the July 2011 amendments to International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) — which entered into force on 1 January 2013.
The amendments include new regulations on energy efficiency for ships — making the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) mandatory for new tonnage and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) compulsory for all ships of 400gt and above.
They also designate certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as the US Caribbean Sea Emission Control Area for the control of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter, effective from 1 January 2014.
Further amendments to MARPOL Annex IV — prevention of pollution by sewage from ships — include the possibility of establishing Special Areas, the designation of the Baltic Sea as a Special Area under Annex IV, and the introduction of stricter discharge requirements for passenger ships while in a Special Area.
‘The frequently missing infrastructure in harbours makes compliance with the regulations on sewage pollution particularly difficult, and members should therefore be aware of the discharge at sea regulations coming into force on 1 January, 2013 in order not to be subject to fines,’ Nautilus senior national secretary Garry Elliott notes.
Important changes affect Annex V regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships. The main feature of the revision is the prohibition of the discharge of virtually all garbage into the sea. The only discharges permitted in certain circumstances include food wastes, animal carcasses, cargo residues, and water-containing cleaning agents or additives used for washing deck and external surfaces or cargo holds.
Cargo residues and cleaning agents and additives must only be considered for discharge if they are not harmful to the marine environment.
The changes also include the updating of definitions — the introduction of an ‘en route’ requirement for the discharge of garbage at sea, and the regrouping of the garbage categories for the purpose of the garbage record book.
‘Every person on board needs to be aware of the garbage disposal changes and it is worth noting, as one example, that the Mediterranean Sea — an existing ‘special area’ — sees the prohibition of the overboard discharge of a banana skin within 12 miles of the shore,’ Mr Elliott stresses.
‘Fines for pollution are already very heavy — in some cases up to €300,000 for oil pollution and up to €30,000 for garbage incidents,’ he adds. ‘One garbage pollution case in 2008, dealt with by the US Coast Guard, saw a company and captain charged with a fine that amounted to €380,000 for throwing their garbage overboard, but in this case it was crew members who made the Coast Guard aware of the incident, and the judge awarded €100,000 to each of the two whistle-blowers.’
Charles Boyle, director of Nautilus International legal services, is concerned that seafarers will face increasing risks of criminalisation under the new rules as a result of inadequate port reception facilities or lack of understanding about the detailed application of the measures.
‘In the current climate, there is a very real danger that the authorities will seek to use this as a weapon against seafarers as a result of the desire for authorities to be seen to hold someone publicly accountable in their promotion of an environmental and political agenda,’ he warns, ‘and I can certainly see pollution becoming an increasingly important issue in terms of criminalisation.
Nautilus Telegraph February 2013