Regulating ships’ waste

Isabelle Ryckbost
Isabelle Ryckbost
To enhance recycling of plastics ESPO says we should aim at limiting the scope of the definition of international catering waste
To enhance recycling of plastics ESPO says we should aim at limiting the scope of the definition of international catering waste

A new port facilities directive should lead to more efficient but responsible management of waste from ships, writes Isabelle Ryckbost, secretary general, ESPO.

On 16 January 2018, the European Commission published the new proposal on the revision of the Port Reception Facilities (PRF) Directive of 2000.

ESPO has welcomed the new proposal and its objective to build upon the substantial progress achieved under the existing Directive. European ports believe that any provisions leading to better enforcement of the obligation for ships to deliver waste at shore are welcome.

The alignment of specific elements of the Directive with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) gains ESPO’s support. We also believe that addressing the waste from fishing ships (fishing nets) and recreational craft will lead to a more comprehensive policy of tackling the sea-based sources of marine litter.

Finally, European ports welcome that new types of waste, such as scrubber waste, have been addressed.

Carrot vs stick

We recognise that better enforcement is not the only way to reduce the waste discharged at sea. Providing the right incentives is equally important. The fee system introduced by the current Directive whereby ships are paying a fixed minimum fee when calling at a port, whether they are delivering waste or not, has worked.

It has contributed to the delivery of increased quantities of waste on shore. For instance, nowadays only 2.5% of oily waste is not delivered at waste facilities in ports, according to the Impact Assessment of the European Commission.

We understand that the Commission wants to continue on this path and wants to strengthen this incentive policy. However, introducing a fee system whereby ships can deliver unlimited amounts of garbage, including dangerous waste and cargo residues for a fixed fee, as proposed in the new text, seems to be a severe and unacceptable divergence from the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

We believe that it will discourage tackling waste at source by reducing volumes generated onboard, which has been the cornerstone of the EU waste policy.

Who will pay?

However, one should not forget that receiving and handling waste comes at a cost. The real bill has to be paid in the end, which means that any difference between the fee received and the actual cost invoiced to the port authority will have to be borne by the latter.

We therefore also oppose the proposal to oblige ports to give a rebate to ships, which by their design or equipment, can work towards generating less waste and which can pursue a sustainable and environmental waste management.

Certain ships can of course be entitled for a rebate. But it should be a port decision to do this, since one has to assess what the real cost of the waste reception operation is and if the port authority has the financial ability to apply a rebate.

Having said that, we really appreciate and welcome the fact that scrubber waste has not been brought under the indirect fee system. The legislator has understood that this would make shipowners, who are using cleaner fuels such as LNG or low sulphur fuelwould have to pay indirectly for the extra amounts of waste generated when using scrubbers.

Port capacity

Another tricky point relates to the “capacity” of ports to handle waste and more, in particular the new provision obliging the port reception facility to collect the waste separately on shore in line with the EU waste framework directive.

We support the separate collection of waste from ships and see it as a way to enhance waste recycling. But it is important to understand that the waste segregated onboard follows the international rules of MARPOL.

Under MARPOL clean and food-contaminated plastics are disposed together on board of ships.  Clean plastics which get food-contaminated on board are then considered as international catering waste, which implies that they are to be sent to an incinerator or for burial once on shore.

However, in principle, catering waste generated in the European Union including food-contaminated plastics can be recycled. If we want to enhance the recycling of plastics in ship waste we should aim at limiting the scope of the definition of international catering waste, allowing it to be recycled under EU legislation.

To conclude, we are looking forward to work with the Commission, the Parliament and the Council as well as with the different stakeholders towards a new directive that ensures a real efficient but responsible solution.

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