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Brussels, 11 March 2008

The European Commission streamlines rules on protection in case of maritime pollution

The European Commission today presents a proposal which further strengthens the existing Community legislation regarding sanctions on those responsible for pollution by ships.

Franco Frattini, the Commission's Vice-President responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security said, "The new directive is an important complement to the Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law on which we will hopefully reach agreement soon with the Council and the European Parliament. Both instruments are a signal that the Community does not tolerate safe havens for offenders who severely damage our natural resources".

Jacques Barrot, the Commission’s Vice-President responsible for transport policy said, "Following a recent court ruling, we streamline our rules on sanctions against maritime pollution. The large majority of operators carrying polluting and dangerous goods are behaving fully responsibly and correctly. The proposal is focused on the small minority operators for whom this might not be the case and who tarnish the image of the shipping industry. The proposal provides clear disincentives for irresponsible practices. Quality operators and citizens will benefit from the new rules which will increase maritime safety and prevention of pollution.".

The new proposal for a directive will replace Framework Decision 2005/667/JHA "to strengthen the criminal-law framework for the enforcement of the law against ship-source pollution". This Framework Decision was adopted in 2005 to supplement Directive 2005/35/EC "on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements". Both instruments were adopted out of concern about the illegal operational discharges of polluting substances from ships at sea and in the aftermath of major accidental oil spills. While the Directive contains a precise definition of the infringements along with the rule that they will “be subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties, which may include criminal or administrative penalties” (IP 05/888), the Framework Decision included provisions on the nature, type and levels of criminal penalties. In a ruling issued on 23 October 2007, the European Court of Justice, seized by the Commission, annulled the Framework Decision and ruled that the provisions related to the definition of criminal offences and to the nature of sanctions should be adopted in an instrument based on the EC Treaty if necessary to ensure that the Community’s rules on maritime safety are fully effective.

The new proposal follows the lines of the judgment and copies the content of relevant provisions of the Framework Decision into a Directive which will amend the existing Directive 2005/35/EC.

With today's proposal, the Directive 2005/35/EC would be amended in a way that its content mirrors the original Commission proposal presented five years ago (IP 03/316).

The new directive will clarify that the infringements defined in Directive 2005/35/EC have to be considered as criminal offences and are to be sanctioned by criminal penalties. The Directive will also oblige Member States to ensure that companies can be held liable for criminal offences committed for their benefit and that these companies are subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties of an administrative or criminal nature.

The annulment of the Framework Decision and the forthcoming negotiations on today's proposed directive do not affect the implementation of the provisions of the existing Directive 2005/35/EC.

To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please see his website

For more information on the maritime transport policy:

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