EU Shipping Law

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European Union law relating to the maritime environment: introduction; European Union measures relating to the maritime environment generally; and penalties for infringements

A. Introduction

19.001 This chapter sets the scene for a discussion over various other chapters on European Union (“EU”) maritime1 environmental law. 19.002 The protection of the marine environment is a very important element of EU shipping law.2 The citizens of the EU would not now3 forgive the EU if it does not do enough to protect the environment. Scenes of oil spills, dead birds and marine wildlife as well as incidents such as the Amoco Cadiz, the Erika and the Prestige have all stimulated calls from the EU’s citizens and businesses to demand action by the EU in the area of environmental protection. 19.003 Yet, one might well ask whether it is appropriate for the EU to be involved in this area given the fact that the global specialised maritime organisation – the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) – is already involved in the area with technical expertise and near global membership. Equally, there are several international treaties outside the scope of the IMO already in place. Despite the presence of at least one specialised international organisation and several non-IMO treaties, the EU has become involved in issues relating to the maritime environment and will remain involved. It is not feasible now to undo the work of the EU in this area and it would be counterproductive because the EU is able to achieve deeper and higher standards in the EU – and sometimes quicker – than a near-global organisation or the international community generally can do so because of the EU’s smaller, narrower and closer membership base. Indeed, the EU is,

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in many ways, better able to achieve compliance than the wider international organisations because Member States can be taken to the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) for failure to comply with EU law. 19.004 The EU is not involved in marine environmental matters to “make up the numbers” in terms of the agencies active in this area around the world. The first recital to Directive 2000/59 on port facilities4 provides that the EU policy on the environment aims at a high level of protection. The first recital also states that this policy is based on the precautionary principle and the principles that the polluter should pay and that preventive action should be taken. The principles utilised in the maritime environment are thus comparable to the principles deployed in EU environmental law generally. Ultimately, provided they can reach agreement, the EU Member States can achieve more and enforce environmental law better in this area than States individually. 19.005 The EU is involved in this area not only for the sake of the citizens and the environment but also because it is important from the perspective of maritime transport generally because vessels and operations which are more environmentally robust are more likely to be safer and more efficient. The first recital to Directive 2000/59 on port facilities5 provides that one important field of EU action in maritime transport generally concerns the reduction of the pollution of the seas and this

“can be achieved through compliance with international conventions, codes and resolutions while maintaining the freedom of navigation as provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the freedom of providing services as provided for in [EU] law”.

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