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Maritime safety: prohibition of organotin compounds on ships

This regulation aims to prohibit organotin compounds (anti-fouling paints) on all ships entering port in the Community in order to reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of these products on the marine environment and human health.


Regulation (EC) No 782/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 April 2003 on the prohibition of organotin compounds on ships [Official Journal L 115 of 9.5.2003].



Based on the strategic objectives set out in the Commission White Paper on transport policy, the purpose of this Community regulation is to reduce the adverse effects on the environment caused by organotin compounds used on ships.

Organotin compounds are chemicals from anti-fouling paints used on boat hulls and nets. These surface coatings are designed to prevent the attachment of algae, molluscs and other organisms which slow down vessel speeds.

Organotin compounds pose a definite risk to aquatic fauna and flora. During the '60s the chemical industry developed efficacious anti-fouling paints using metallic compounds, in particular the organotin compounds tributyltin (TBT) and triphenyltin (TPT).

These chemicals are highly toxic for sealife (larvae, mussels, oysters and fish). For this reason, they have been banned in many European countries, while several Community directives (Directive 76/769/EEC and the successive amendments thereto) provide for regular monitoring of organotin compound levels.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems (AFS Convention) adopted at an IMO diplomatic conference in October 2001 bans application of TBT coatings on ships with effect from 1 January 2003 followed, as of 1 January 2008, by the elimination of active TBT coatings from ships.

The AFS Convention will enter into force 12 months after at least 25 States representing 25% of the world's merchant shipping tonnage have ratified it.

Considering that non-polluting substitutes are available today, the AFS Convention prohibits the use of all harmful organotin compounds in anti-fouling paints applied to ships. At the moment, only organotin compounds are banned, but the Convention will also establish a mechanism to prevent potential future uses of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems, in line with the precautionary principle.


The regulation directly imposes on shipowners detailed requirements which must be observed throughout the Community.

The regulation applies to:

  • ships flying the flag of a Member State,
  • ships not flying the flag of a Member State but operating under the authority of a Member State, and
  • ships entering port in a Member State but not covered by the two previous points.

The regulation does not apply to any warship, naval auxiliary or other ship owned by a State and used on government service.

As from 1 July 2003, organotin compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems may no longer be applied on ships flying the flag of a Member State. As from 1 January 2008 ships entering port in a Member State must either bear no coating of organotin compounds which act as biocides or must bear a second topcoat forming a barrier to prevent organotin compounds leaching from the non-compliant anti-fouling undercoat.

The regulation introduces a survey and certification system for ships flying the flag of a Member State. It stipulates that:

  • ships of 400 gross tonnage and above must be surveyed, irrespective of the voyage;
  • ships of 24 metres or more in length, but less than 400 gross tonnage, must simply carry a declaration of compliance with the regulation or with the AFS Convention. No particular survey or certificate is specified in the regulation to avoid overburdening the administrations in the Member States;
  • no survey or certification is envisaged for ships of less than 24 metres in length, i.e. mainly pleasure craft and fishing boats.

As regards recognition of certificates and of statements of compliance:

  • as from 1 July 2003, Member States must recognise any AFS certificate issued by or on behalf of a Member State;
  • as from 1 July 2004, Member States must recognise any AFS statement of compliance issued on behalf of a Member State;
  • as from 1 July 2003, Member States must recognise any AFS declaration.

By 10 May 2004 at the latest, the Commission must report to the European Parliament and to the Council on progress with ratification of the AFS Convention and, if necessary, propose amendments to speed up the process of reducing pollution by harmful anti-fouling compounds.


Act Date
of entry into force
Final date for implementation in the Member States
Regulation (EC) No 782/2003 10.05.2003 -
Last updated: 19.07.2006
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