Pollution at sea: MEPs vote for compulsory criminal law penalties

Nachfolgend wird eine geringfügig veränderte und gekürzte Pressemitteilung des Europäischen Parlaments dokumentiert.

More effective measures to combat pollution at sea through stricter legal penalties in EU law were backed in a legislative vote by the Transport Committee on Tuesday.

* criminal penalties: Member States to regard serious cases of pollution as criminal acts
* the distinction between serious and minor cases (those not resulting in a deterioration of water quality) will be preserved
* minor cases are nevertheless to be regarded as criminal offences if they are repeated, deliberate or caused by serious negligence

With 37 votes in favour, 1 against and no abstentions, members of the committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of the report drafted by Luis de Grandes Pascual (EPP-ED, ES), who sees this measure as essential for preventing future environmental disasters.

„Serious“ or „minor“ pollution discharges?

Member States would be entitled to regard pollution incidents that do not seriously affect water quality as „administrative infringements“. But if they are repeated, deliberate or caused by serious negligence they must be regarded as criminal offences and punished accordingly, says the report.

MEPs hope thereby to deter the responsible parties in sea transport who would rather pollute because paying an administrative fine costs less than obeying the law.

The directive requires effective and dissuasive penalties, not only for ship owners but also for anyone else who might benefit, such as cargo owners or classification societies.

Damage assessment

Regarding the assessment of any damage caused and the classification of the offence, MEPs backed an amendment proposing that monitoring and surveillance be entrusted to a monitoring laboratory to be set up within the European Maritime Safety Agency.


The draft directive was brought forward following a 2005 ruling of the Court of Justice which stated that the European Community does have the power to ask its Member States to apply criminal law penalties in the transport industry. However, the directive cannot determine the type or exact level of penalties, this being a matter for the Member States.

Procedure: Co-decision, first reading — Committee vote: 37 for, 1 against, no abstentions — Plenary vote: April, Strasbourg.
Chair : Paolo Costa (ALDE, IT)
REF. : 20090216IPR49532