Chronic marine oil pollution may soon no longer pass unpunished in the European Union

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The European Parliament debates a proposal for imposing criminal sanctions against offenders.


January 18, 2005
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




Today and tomorrow the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport will debate and vote a proposal for imposing criminal sanctions against illegal oil dumping in the seas.

The proposal, presented by the Dutch rapporteur Corien Wortmann-Kool, includes illegal oil dumping and those due to gross negligence as criminal infringements that can be punished  with jail, strong fines and even the loss of financial aid and possibilities of trading in the EU.

Once approved in the Parliament’s Transport Committee, the proposal will be voted in the Plenary and then will go the  Council of Transport Minsters.

Oceana has been working to get this Directive passed for more than one year. Its approval could help to prevent more than 20 million tons of oily waters and hydrocarbon residues from being dumped at sea.

Oceana has presented two reports (“The EU Fleet and Chronic Hydrocarbon contamination of the Oceans” and “The Other Side of Oil Slicks”) to the European Parliament and the EU Ministries of Transport exposing the risks for the marine environment and human health from this pollution,

“We are reaching the end of this process. And we need the EU to approve a strong Directive to deal, not only with big oil slicks but with the tens of thousand of small and ordinary oil spills that generate pollution three times higher than the ones created by all the big accidents involving oil tankers”, declares Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana for Europe.

The Commission has already highlighted chronic oil pollution from marine traffic as one of the most important deficiencies within European maritime legislation, and in 1998 presented a first proposal for punishing illegal oil dumping, but Member States have been reluctant to approve it for years.

In 2004, after the European Parliament approved in the Commission proposal with amendments, the Council of Transport Ministers decided to relax the measures and sanctions presented by the Parliament.

Now in the Second Reading, the Parliament is retabling most of its proposals.

As this legislation falls under the so-called co-decision process, in the event the Council rejects them again, both will have to go into a so-called conciliations procedure arbitrio due to in this case there is co-decision. [`However, this is looking more unlikely as all the institutions are working towards an acceptable compromise.]