EU court aide: Criminalization of maritime pollution is legal

A European Union law that criminalizes maritime pollution is legal, an adviser to the EU’s top court said in an opinion that rejects shipping industry complaints that the new rules may cause «chaos.» Groups including Intertanko, which represents about 80 percent of the world’s tanker fleet, and Lloyd’s Register had asked the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to review the 2005 EU legislation that criminalizes intentional, reckless and «seriously negligent» discharges of pollution. The shipping groups argued the law goes beyond existing international rules. «Examination of the questions referred has disclosed no factor of such a kind as to bring into question the validity of the EU law,» Juliane Kokott, an advocate general at the court, said in a 37-page opinion. The court, which is scheduled to rule early next year, follows its aides’ legal advice most of the time. The EU law was at least partly introduced in response to the 2002 sinking of the Prestige tanker in 2002 off the coast of Spain and another accident near France in 1999. Upholding the law would be a «recipe for chaos,» the shipping groups argued, because it would expose them to different national regimes. Marpol conflict It would send a message that existing international rules aren’t strict enough, the groups argued. Marpol, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, is the «only international agreed standard,» Christopher Greenwood QC, a lawyer for the shipping associations, told a 13- judge panel at a September 25 court hearing. Kokott said the EU has the right to create standards that depart from Marpol. She said the EU «can in principle» ask its members to take measures which go against their duties under international law. «The member states must nevertheless take all appropriate measures to put an end to such conflicts,» she said. «This may even require the denunciation of international agreements.» The case is C-308/06 The Queen on the application of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo), the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee, Lloyd’s Register, the International Salvage Union vs Secretary of State for Transport. (Bloomberg)