The Council and EU Parliament reached an agreement on a revised directive on ship-source pollution to ensure safer and cleaner shipping in the EU.

To ensure safer and cleaner shipping in the EU, the Council presidency and European Parliament’s negotiators reached a provisional agreement on a revised directive on ship-source pollution, as part of the ‘maritime safety’ legislative package.

“Seas and oceans are our common good. These new rules will set the EU to the forefront when it comes to clean shipping. We found a compromise that will ensure cleaner seas in Europe while at the same time providing a level playing field for a dynamic shipping industry.”
Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgian deputy prime minister and minister for justice and the North Sea

The revised directive incorporates international standards into EU law, ensuring that those responsible for illegal discharges of polluting substances are subject to dissuasive, effective, and proportionate penalties to improve maritime safety and better protect the marine environment from pollution by ships.

Overall, it will equip the EU with modern tools to support clean shipping by aligning EU rules with international standards and securing a level playing field for the maritime sector while improving implementation and enforcement through an enhanced cooperation framework between European and national authorities.

Main objectives of the revised directive

The revised legislation mainly aims to:

  • extend thescope of the current directive to cover illegal discharges of harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, garbage and discharged waters and residues
  • establish a strengthened legal framework for penaltiesand their effective application, enabling national authorities to ensure a dissuasive and consistent imposition of sanctions to ship-source pollution incidents in all European seas
  • Separate the administrative sanctionsregime from the criminal sanctions’ regime enshrined in the new draft environmental crimes directive.

Key elements of the new legislation

The general thrust of the Commission proposal was retained by the co-legislators. However, the provisional agreement introduces several changes to ensure clarity and coherence with international rules and procedures, in particular those of the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL), in the interest of protection of the marine environment.

Considering the differing legal systems in the member states, the provisional agreement also indicates more clearly that the legislation in question concerns administrative penalties only, thus drawing a clear line between the scope of this directive and that of the new draft legislation on environmental crimes.

Finally, adequate flexibility was introduced regarding member states’ obligations to verify and report pollution incidents, to avoid imposing an excessive administrative burden and in recognition of member states’ diverse situations in terms of geographical location, resources, and capabilities.

Next steps

Today’s provisional agreement needs to be approved by both co-legislators before the formal adoption of the legislative act by the European Parliament and the Council. Member states will have 30 months after the entry into force of the revised directive to transpose its provisions in their national legislation.


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