Grant Shapps and ‘The Commitments’. UK sets out its plans for decarbonising shipping.

Hot on the heels of the bumper 581 page communication from the EU Commission on its decarbonisation plans comes a mere 221 page communication from the Department for Transport Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Britain.

This deals with various sectors, and contains various commitments as regards the domestic maritime sector.

Commitment. “We will plot a course to net zero for the UK domestic maritime sector, with indicative targets from 2030 and net zero as early as is feasible We will establish, following public consultation in 2022, an ambitious ‘Course to Zero’. This consultation will explore the technical, operational and policy options available for Government to accelerate decarbonisation in this sector to achieve net zero by no later than 2050 or earlier if possible. Following consultation, we will establish ambitious indicative targets for the domestic maritime sector recognising that we have ground to make up, covering 2030 and onwards. These targets will guide the design and enable us to measure the success of future policy interventions. We will embed this course in our Clean Maritime Plan (CMP), as part of a planned review and refresh which is due to start in 2022 and include within the CMP the long term interventions needed to achieve full decarbonisation.”

Commitment. “We will consult on the potential for a planned phase out date for the sale of new non-zero emission domestic vessels Following the conclusion of the current Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and the Course to Zero consultation, we will consult in mid-2022 upon the potential for long term decarbonisation to be accelerated through carefully designed, well signposted measures to phase out the sale of new, non-zero emission domestic vessels, building on the experiences of the steps being undertaken today in other modes of transport.”

Commitment. “We will accelerate the development of zero emission technology and infrastructure in the UK We have recently launched a £20 million funding package – the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) – to support and accelerate research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions for maritime and accelerate decarbonisation.”

Commitment. “We will consult this year on the appropriate steps to support and, if needed, mandate the uptake of shore power in the UK

We will consult in winter 2021 on how government can support the wider deployment of shore power, including consideration of regulatory interventions, for both vessels and ports, that could drive deployment as we transition to a net zero world, and bring forward appropriate measures.”

 Commitment. “We will extend the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to support renewable fuels of non-biological origin used in shipping We consulted in March 2021, on a potential expansion of the RTFO to include some advanced maritime fuels in order to support their deployment.109 The RTFO mandates that a certain proportion of road fuel must be from a sustainable renewable source. Maritime fuels currently have no equivalent system, which we aim to change. We recently announced that we will make renewable fuels of non-biological origin used in shipping eligible for incentives under the RTFO.”

Commitment. “Internationally, the UK will press for greater ambition during the 2023 review of the International Maritime Organisation Initial Greenhouse Gas Strategy and urge accelerated decarbonisation.

The IMO will review its strategy in 2023 and as set out in the recent G7 Climate and Environment Communique112 the UK will be seeking to increase ambition to ensure that international shipping plays its part in delivering decarbonisation. We will promote close alignment with the Paris temperature goals and challenge the international community to deliver on the IMO initial strategy commitment to ‘phase out’ emissions from the international sector as soon as possible.”

Commitment. “We will ensure we have the right information to regulate emissions, and to judge the effectiveness of the steps we are taking in the UK and at the IMO We will review, and if appropriate amend, the operation of the UK’s existing monitoring, reporting and verification system for greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, to ensure it is fit for purpose and delivering the information we need to decarbonise the maritime sector. We will keep the measurement approach to the UK’s international shipping emissions under review and consider the appropriateness of fuel or activity-based measures. Additionally, we will consider how similar information can be collected for the domestic fleet, in order to provide a better evidence base for future policy interventions.

We will include the UK international aviation and shipping emissions in the Sixth Carbon Budget The Government has set the Sixth Carbon Budget to include the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions, as recommended by our independent climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC). This allows those emissions to be accounted for consistently with other emissions included within the Sixth Carbon Budget. In line with the CCC’s recommended method for CB6 and UNFCC reporting, the projections for international shipping emissions represent the estimated emissions from fuel sold in the UK for use in international shipping.”

It is noteworthy that shipping is not included in the UK’s ETS and international shipping enters the stage only in the last of the above mentioned commitments.

Bastille Day. EU Commission’s present to the shipping industry.

Today the EU Commission has issued a 581 page document with a proposed directive amending the 2003 ETS Directive. This is considerably less extensive that the proposed amendment to the 2015 MRV Regulation which is what the EU Parliament voted for last October.

Maritime transport will now fall within the Directive (inserted articles 3g to 3ge) which will apply in respect of: emissions from intra-EU voyages; half of the emissions from extra-EU voyages and; emissions occurring at berth in an EU port. This rows back from the Parliament’s proposed amendments to the 2015 MRV Regulation which would have included all emissions from extra-EU voyages which started from or ended within the EU. The same rules that apply to other sectors covered by the EU ETS should apply to maritime transport with regard to auctioning, the transfer, surrender and cancellation of allowances, penalties and registries (Article 16).  Shipping will enjoy phased entry into the ETS. Shipping companies shall be liable to surrender allowances according to the following schedule: (a) 20 % of verified emissions reported for 2023; (b) 45 % of verified emissions reported for 2024; (c) 70 % of verified emissions reported for 2025; (d) 100 % of verified emissions reported for 2026 and each year thereafter: somewhat different from the inclusion in the ETS as of 1.1.2022 proposed by the EU Parliament. The current MRV Regulation applies only to CO2 emissions and the Commission leaves extension to other gases to a later phase, once the monitoring approaches and emissions factors of these gases has been agreed.

The proposed amending directive includes new definitions for “shipping company” and “administering authority in respect of shipping companies” in Article 3(v) and Article 3(w) respectively.  The person or organisation responsible for the compliance with the EU ETS should be the shipping company, defined as the shipowner or any other organisation or person, such as the manager or the bareboat charterer, that has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner and that, on assuming such responsibility, has agreed to take over all the duties and responsibilities imposed by the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention. This definition is based on the definition of ‘company’ in Article 3, point (d) of Regulation (EU) 2015/757, and in line with the global data collection system established in 2016 by the IMO. This is good news for time charterers who would have become responsible under the Parliament’s proposed amendment to the MRV Regulation.

Still, half a loaf is better than what is currently being served up by the IMO on its GHG reduction menu for international shipping.

The proposed Directive can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/revision-eu-ets_with-annex_en_0.pdf

Climate Change and International Shipping. Life in the slow lane, and life in the fast(er) lane.

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 76), meeting from 10 to 17 June 2021, adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex VI that will require ships to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

All ships will be required to calculate their Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) following technical means to improve their energy efficiency and to establish their annual operational carbon intensity indicator (CII) and CII rating. Carbon intensity links the GHG emissions to the amount of cargo carried over distance travelled.

Ships will get a rating of their energy efficiency (A, B, C, D, E – where A is the best).  A ship rated D for three consecutive years, or E, is required to submit a corrective action plan, to show how the required index (C or above) would be achieved.

The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (adopted in a consolidated revised Annex VI) are expected to enter into force on 1 November 2022, with the requirements for EEXI and CII certification coming into effect from 1 January 2023. The first annual reporting will be completed in 2023, with the first rating given in 2024.

A review clause requires the IMO to review the effectiveness of the implementation of the CII and EEXI requirements, by 1 January 2026 at the latest, and, if necessary, develop and adopt further amendments. 

The MEPC also adopted related guidelines to support the implementation of the amendments. 

The guidelines include the 2021 Guidelines on the operational carbon intensity reduction factors relative to reference lines (CII Reduction factor Guidelines, G3). This includes the required reduction (Z) factor, which is set at a rate, relative to 2019, of 11% by 2026 (about a 1.5% annual reduction, as opposed to the 7% annual reduction that would be needed for shipping to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 2015). This would  be further strengthened after that date, taking into account the review of the measure and latest climate science.

These combined technical and operational measures, referred to as short term carbon intensity measures, are stated as being in line with the ambition of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy, which aims to reduce carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030, compared to 2008.

The MEPC adopted a work plan on the concrete way forward to make progress with candidate mid- and long-term measures including measures to incentivize the move away from fossil fuels to low- and zero-carbon fuels to achieve decarbonization of international shipping.

A proposal initially considered by MEPC suggested a mandatory levy of $100 per tonne carbon dioxide equivalent on heavy fuel oil will be further considered at the intersessional working group meeting in the context of the adopted workplan along with other proposals for mid-term measures. A proposal to establish an International Maritime Research Board, funded by a tax on oil fuel used by shipping and discussion will resume at the Committee’s next session.

The MEPC also adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex I (addition of a new regulation 43A) to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in Arctic waters on and after 1 July 2024.

The prohibition will cover the use and carriage for use as fuel of oils having a density at 15°C higher than 900 kg/m3 or a kinematic viscosity at 50°C higher than 180 mm2/s. Ships engaged in securing the safety of ships, or in search and rescue operations, and ships dedicated to oil spill preparedness and response would be exempted. Ships which meet certain construction standards with regard to oil fuel tank protection would need to comply on and after 1 July 2029.

A Party to MARPOL with a coastline bordering Arctic waters may temporarily waive the requirements for ships flying its flag while operating in waters subject to that Party’s sovereignty or jurisdiction, up to 1 July 2029.

Meanwhile the EU is also active with plans regarding the reduction of carbon emissions from international shipping. Its plans for inclusion of international shipping in the emissions trading scheme were due to have been announced this month but will now be announced on July 14, Bastille Day, as part of its ‘Fit for 55’ package.

Climate change reduction and the IMO. What to expect from this week’s MEPC meeting.

Crucial measures to further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships will be discussed by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) met between 16-20 November to discuss measures to reduce further greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

The IMO’s website notes that the MEPC is expected to adopt amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to significantly strengthen the “phase 3” requirements of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) – meaning that new ships built from 2022 will have to be significantly more energy-efficient. Those amendments were approved at the previous session of the Committee (MEPC 74) in May 2019. 

The MEPC will also discuss two further energy efficiency requirements comprising draft amendments which were agreed by IMO’s Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 7) in October, and would also apply to existing ships:

  • a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) for all ships;
  • an annual operational carbon intensity indicator (CII) and its rating, which would apply to ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above.

If approved at this session of the Committee, they could then be put forward for adoption at the subsequent MEPC 76 session, to be held in June 2021. Under MARPOL, amendments can enter into force after a minimum 16 months following adoption.

Intransigent defendants: Prestige 4.0

Most parties who lose English court cases or arbitrations give in (relatively) gracefully. In the long and ongoing Prestige saga, however (already well documented in this blog: see here, here, here, and here), the French and Spanish governments have chosen to fight tooth and nail, something that is always apt to give rise to interesting legal points. Last Friday’s episode before Butcher J (SS Mutual v Spain [2020] EWHC 1920 (Comm)) was no exception, though in the event nothing particularly novel in the way of law emerged.

To recap, nearly twenty years ago the laden tanker Prestige sank off northern Spain, grievously polluting the French and Spanish coasts. Steamship Mutual, the vessel’s P&I Club, accepted that it might be potentially liable to direct suit up to the CLC limit, but pointed out that its cover was governed by English law, contained a “pay to be paid” clause and required arbitration in London. Nothing daunted, the French and Spanish governments came in as parties civiles when the owners and master were prosecuted in Spain, and claimed their full losses. The Club meanwhile protected its position by obtaining declaratory arbitration awards in England against both governments that all claims against it had to be arbitrated here; for good measure it then successfully transmuted these awards into High Court judgments under s.66 of the 1996 Arbitration Act (see The Prestige (No 2) [2013] EWHC 3188 (Comm). These decisions the French and Spanish governments blithely ignored, however; instead they took proceedings in Spain to execute the judgments they had obtained there.

In the present litigation, the Club’s claim (slightly simplified) was against both governments for damages for continuing the Spanish proceedings, based either on breach of the arbitration agreement, or in the alternative on failure to act in accordance with the s.66 judgments. The object, unsurprisingly, was to establish an equal and opposite liability to meet any claim asserted by the governments under their judgments in the Spanish proceedings.

The Club sought service out on the French and Spanish governments: the latter resisted, arguing that they were entitled to state immunity, and that in any case the court had no jurisdiction.

On the state immunity point, the Club succeeded in defeating the governments’ arguments. The proceedings for breach of the arbitration agreement were covered by the exception in s.9 of the State Immunity Act 1978 as actions “related to” an arbitration agreement binding on the governments. Importantly, Butcher J regarded it as unimportant that the proceedings did not relate to the substantive matter agreed to be arbitrated, and that the governments might be bound not by direct agreement but only in equity on the basis that they were third parties asserting rights arising from a contract containing an arbitration clause.

The proceedings on the judgments, by contrast, were not “related to” the arbitration agreement under s.9: understandably so, since they were based on failure to give effect to a judgment, the connection to arbitration being merely a background issue. But no matter: they were covered by another exception, that in s.3(1)(a), on the basis that the breach alleged – suing in the teeth of an English judgment that they had no right to do so – was undoubtedly a “commercial transaction” as defined by that section.

The judge declined to decide on a further argument now moot: namely, whether suing abroad in breach of an English arbitration agreement was a breach of a contractual obligation to be performed in England within the exception contained in s.3(1)(b) of the 1978 Act. But the betting, in the view of this blog, must be that that exception would have been inapplicable: there is a big and entirely logical difference between a duty not to do something other than in England, and an obligation actually to do (or omit to do) something in England, which is what s.3(1)(b) requires.

State immunity disposed of, did the court have jurisdiction over these two governments? Here the holding was yes, but only partly. The claim based on the s.66 judgments was, it was held, subject not only to the Brussels I Recast Regulation but to its very restrictive insurance provisions dealing with claims against injured parties (even, note, where the claims were being brought, as some were in the case of Spain, under rights of subrogation). Since the governments of France and Spain were ex hypothesi not domiciled in England, but in their respective realms, there could be no jurisdiction against them.

On the other hand, the claims based on the obligations stemming from the arbitration award were, it was held, within the arbitration exception to Brussels I, and thus outside it and subject to the national rules in CPR, PD6B. The only serious question, given that the arbitration gateway under PD6B 3.1(10) or the “contract governed by English law” gateway under PD6B 3.1(6)(c) pretty clearly applied, was whether there was a serious issue to be tried as to liability in damages. Here Butcher J had no doubt that there was, even if the governments were not directly party to the agreements and the awards had been technically merely declaratory of the Club’s rights. It followed that service out should be allowed in respect of the award claims.

Further than this his Lordship did not go, for the very good reason that he had no need to. But in our view the better position is that indeed there would in principle be liability under the award claims. If, as is now clear, an injunction is available on equitable grounds to prevent suit in the teeth of an arbitration clause by a third party despite the lack of any direct agreement by the latter, there seems no reason why there should not also be an ability to an award of damages, if only under Lord Cairns’s Act (now the Senior Courts Act 1981, s.50). Further, there seems no reason why there should not be a an implied obligation not to ignore even a declaratory award by suing in circumstances where it has declared suit barred.

For final answers to these questions we shall have to await another decision. Such a decision might even indeed come in the present proceedings, if the intransigence of the French and Spanish governments continues.

One other point to note. The UK may be finally extricating itself from the toils of the EU at the end of this year. But that won’t mark the end of this saga. Nor indeed will it mark the end of the Brussels regime on jurisdiction, since the smart money is on Brussels I being replaced with the Lugano Convention, which is in fairly similar terms. You can’t throw away your EU law notes quite yet.

Prestige 3.0 — the saga continues

The Spanish government and SS Mutual are clearly digging in for the long haul over the Prestige pollution debacle eighteen years ago. To recap, the vessel at the time of the casualty was entered with the club under a contract containing a pay to be paid provision and a London arbitration clause. Spain prosecuted the master and owners and, ignoring the arbitration provision, came in as partie civile and recovered a cool $1 bn directly from the club in the Spanish courts. The club meanwhile obtained an arbitration award in London saying that the claim against it had to be arbitrated not litigated, which it enforced under s.66 of the AA 1996 and then used in an attempt to stymie Spain’s bid to register and enforce its court judgment here under Brussels I (a bid now the subject of proceedings timed for this coming December).

In the present proceedings, London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v Spain (M/T PRESTIGE) [2020] EWHC 1582 (Comm) the club sought essentially to reconvene the arbitration to obtain from the tribunal an ASI against Spain and/or damages for breach of the duty to arbitrate and/or abide by the previous award, covering such things as its costs in the previous s.66 proceedings. By way of machinery it sought to serve out under s 18 of the 1996 Act. Spain claimed sovereign immunity and said these further claims were not arbitrable.

The immunity claim nearly succeeded, but fell at the last fence. There was, Henshaw J said, no agreement to arbitrate under s.9 of the State Immunity Act 1978, which would have sidelined immunity: Spain might be bound not to raise the claim except in arbitration under the principle in The Yusuf Cepnioglu [2016] EWCA Civ 386, but this did not amount to an agreement to arbitrate. Nor was there, on the facts, any submission within s.2. However, he then decided that s.3, the provision about taking part in commercial activities, was applicable and allowed Spain to be proceeded against.

Having disposed of the sovereign immunity point, it remained to see whether the orders sought against Spain — an ASI or damages — were available in the arbitration. Henshaw J thought it well arguable that they were. Although Spain could not be sued for breach of contract, since it had never in so many words promised not to sue the club, it was arguable that neither Brussels I nor s.13 of the 1978 Act barred the ASI claim in the arbitration, and that if an ASI might be able to be had, then there must be at least a possibility of damages in equity under Lord Cairns’s Act.

No doubt there will be an appeal. But this decision gives new hope to P&I and other interests faced with opponents who choose, even within the EU, to treat London arbitration agreements as inconsequential pieces of paper to be ignored with comparative immunity.

EU to get tough on GHG emissions from shipping?

 

In October 2014, the EU set domestic GHGs reduction target of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Shipping is currently outside those targets with climate change regulation for international shipping being parked in the slow lane in the International Maritime Organization. That may be about to change over the next two years.

 

  1. COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS The European Green Deal Brussels, 11.12.2019 COM(2019) 640 final

 

The Commission indicated that it would be looking at measures extending the emissions trading system (ETS) to shipping and would look closely at the current tax exemptions including for aviation and maritime fuels and at how best to close any loopholes will take action in relation to maritime transport, including to regulate access of the most polluting ships to EU ports and to oblige docked ships to use shore-side electricity.

 

  1. On 4 March 2020 the Commission proposed a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 (European Climate Law) under which, by September 2020, the Commission would review the Union’s 2030 target for climate referred to in Article 2(11) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 in light of the climate-neutrality objective set out in Article 2(1), and explore options for a new 2030 target of 50 to 55% emission reductions compared to 1990.

 

  1. On 24 January 2020 Green MEP, Jutta Paulus, as Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety produced a draft report (COM(2019)0038 – C8-0034/2019 -2019/0017(COD)) on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2015/757 in order to take appropriate account of the global data collection system for ship fuel oil consumption data. The report recommends the following amendments to the 2015 MRV Regulation ((Regulation (EU) 2015/757 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and amending Directive 2009/16/EC)):

– the inclusion of maritime transport in the ETS;

– the establishment of a maritime transport decarbonisation fund to foster research and development in the energy efficiency of ships and support investments in innovative technologies and infrastructure to decarbonise maritime transport, including short sea shipping and ports, and the deployment of sustainable fuels. The fund would be established for the period from 2021 to 2030 and would be financed from revenues of the ETS;

– Establishing a target of reduction of CO2 emissions per transport work by at least 40 % by 2030 over the first reporting year of the MRV, 2018;

– The extension of the scope of the amended regulation to all GHG emissions, especially methane, from ships of 5000 grt or above. The amended regulation would cover GHG emissions released during voyages of such ships from their last port of call to a port of call under the jurisdiction of a Member State and from a port of call under the jurisdiction of a Member State to their next port of call, as well as within ports of call under the jurisdiction of a Member State;

– The Commission to set targets for member states for deployment of shore side electricity.

 

These proposed changes to EU law may make last year’s anxiety over the IMO’s Sulphur Cap come to seem like very small beer indeed.

England v Spain grudge match. Appeal against registration of ‘Prestige’ judgment against London Club likely to be heard in December 2020.

 

Following the break up of ‘The Prestige’, Spain brought proceedings for compensation for the resulting pollution against various defendants, including the owner’s P&I Club. The Club got its response in early by obtaining an arbitration award against Spain which declared that, as a result of the “pay to be paid” clause in the policy the Club had no liability to Spain. The arbitrator’s jurisdiction was challenged unsuccessfully in the English Courts and the award was converted into a judgment. London SS Mutual v Kingdom of Spain, [2015] EWCA Civ 333; [2015] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 33

In 2016 the Spanish Supreme Court held that the owners and their club were liable for the damage caused and in execution proceedings in La Coruna the court held that the club would liable in respect of the claims up to a global limit of liability in the sum of approximately €855 million. Spain has obtained an order in England registering the Spanish judgment to enable its enforcement here in England. The Club have appealed against that order, principally on the ground that, under art 34.3 of the Brussels Regulation the judgment is irreconcilable with the previous decisions of the English courts converting the award into a judgment.

In a Case Management Conference before Teare J [2020] EWHC 142 (Comm) it was ordered that the trial be after 1 December 2020. It is estimated that it will last 5-6 days. Disclosure has been ordered of documents held by Spain which relate to the alleged refusal of the Spanish Courts  to allow the master to participate in an underwater investigation of the strength of the vessel’s hull and to disclose the results of the investigation (so that there was a breach of the master’s right to equality of arms and to be able to prepare a defence) or whether the results were disclosed to the master in sufficient time to allow him to prepare his defence.

The Club were also given permission to adduce evidence of a naval architect on the question whether the results of the underwater inspections enabled conclusions to be drawn as to the strength of the hull and if so what those conclusions were. On both issues the Club is to provide its evidence first.

Shipping casualties and clearing-up

After a casualty the clear priority for shipowning, P&I and insurance interests alike is to clear up the mess as soon as possible and start trading again. The last thing they want is a run-in with well-meaning administrators saying that nothing can be done until form after form has been filled in, checked, rubber-stamped and filed, and permission to act obtained from Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. Yet this was exactly what happened in 2012 to the owners of the 86,000 dwt container vessel MSC Flaminia. A fire broke out on a voyage from Charleston to Antwerp, forcing the crew to abandon ship and resulting in the vessel being towed dead to Wilhelmshaven in Germany. The owners wanted to send her directly to an entirely reputable ship-repairer in Romania for cleanup and repair, but the German environmental authorities were having none of it. The vessel was full of filth, sludge, metal debris and the dirty water used to extinguish the fire. This was, they said, waste and subject to the Waste Directive 2008 and Regulation 1013/2006, requiring extensive documentation, planning and administrative oversight before any transfer could take place. Owners argued in vain that Art.1.3(b) specifically excepted waste produced on board ships, trains, etc and later discharged for treatment: debris from a casualty, said the bureaucrats, was not within the exception. The result was that the ship remained marooned in Wilhelmshaven for seven months before it was finally allowed to go to Romania. The German courts, in proceedings to recover the resulting losses from the state, initially supported the Teutonic bureaucracy, but the Munich Landgericht then sent the question off to the ECJ: was waste resulting from a marine casualty within the exception?

The ECJ, much to everyone’s relief, today said that it was. The Directive had to be interpreted purposively and there was no reason to give special treatment to waste resulting from a casualty, especially as the terms of Art.1.3(b) were unqualified. Within the EU this now means that vessels can get out of ports of refuge quickly and be sent with due expedition to wherever they can be cleaned up and repaired most efficiently. And a good thing too.

The decision, under the name of Conti II v Land Niedersachsen (Case C‑689/17) [2019] EUECJ C-689/17, is here (unfortunately only in French).

Clearing up after a marine casualty: comfortable words from the Advocate-General.

As a matter of EU law, moving waste across borders can be an expensive bureaucratic nightmare. Regulation 1013/2006 on waste shipments lays down all sorts of notification, insurance, and other requirements that must be satisfied before any such shipment can take place.

The German owners of the MSC Flaminia got a taste of this in 2012. En route from Charleston to Antwerp with a cargo of nearly 5000 containers, including 151 stated to contain dangerous cargo, the vessel suffered a fire and a number of explosions. These left her in an unholy mess, with quantities of scrap metal, possibly contaminated sludge and water used to put out the fire slopping about everywhere. She ran for Wilhelmshaven and made arrangements for cleaning-up operations in Romania. The German environmental authorities then said “Not so fast”, arguing that all the rigmarole of the waste shipments directive had to be gone through. The owners argued that the exception in Art.1(3)(b) applied, which excises from the Regulation “waste generated on board vehicles, trains, aeroplanes and ships, until such waste is offloaded in order to be recovered or disposed of.” The government argued that this did not cover waste created by a casualty outside normal ship operations; a Munich court duly sent the issue to the ECJ.

The Advocate-General’s opinion came down clearly for the shipowners: there was no specific exception for waste arising from an accident or casualty, and no need to imply one. One suspects the ECJ will follow suit. The relief for shipowners is likely to be considerable: it means that cleaning-up operations can now proceed smoothly wherever is easiest. And a good thing too.

See Schifffahrts GmbH MSC Flaminia v Land Niedersachsen (Case C698/17), as ever available on BAILII (unfortunately in French).