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Reducing ship generated marine litter

AUTHORS: Jens Peter Øhlenschlæger – Stephanie Newman – Andrew Farmer

Marine litter is an increasing threat to the health of European and global marine ecosystems, with costly environmental, economic and social consequences. One source of this pollution is ships which illegally discharge their waste into the sea.

The Port Reception Facilities (PRF) Directive requires ships to discharge their waste to dedicated port reception facilities in the EU. Since it came into force in 2002 there has been an increase in waste delivery to Member State ports, but illegal discharges at sea of ship generated waste still take place. IEEP and Port Environment were commissioned by the NGO Seas At Risk to produce recommendations for the Directive’s upcoming revision based on an analysis of its implementation.

A critical aspect driving the effectiveness of the Directive is how ship operators are charged for discharging waste in a port, but there is much variability across Europe. An indirect fee system has been implemented in Baltic ports whereby the cost of delivering waste to port is included in the overall port fee paid by all visiting ships (rather than having an additional fee for waste). It has been shown to reduce illegal discharges of oily waste significantly, and there is every reason to believe it has had the same effect on illegal solid waste dumping. It is therefore recommended that a similar system be implemented for the whole of Europe, which would remove to the greatest extent possible any disincentives to delivering waste to ports. Such a system would require mandatory waste delivery at port and payment of an indirect fee for port facilities irrespective of the quantities and types of waste delivered.

See also IEEP’s report for Seas At Risk on improving other pieces of EU legislation to tackle marine litter.

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