Commission rebuffs MEPs over port waste

Conciliation battle over marine pollution sails into view as Commission rejects "no-special-fee" system

A European Parliament effort to reduce marine pollution by demanding that ships visiting EU ports should not pay extra for using waste disposal facilities is unjustified and could even slow pollution prevention, the European Commission has stated. The Commission is refusing to alter its backing for EU governments in a dispute with the assembly over a new directive on preventing waste dumping from ships, making a "conciliation" showdown over the "no-special-fee" system inevitable.

Last year, EU governments agreed, after long argument, with the Commission's proposal that the directive should allow member states freedom to decide how they charge for waste facilities in ports (ENDS Daily 18 June 1999). The decision reflected a "delicate balance" between the wide variety of charging systems already in place in the EU, according to the Commission.

MEPs, however, are insisting that the most effective way to remove incentives for ship owners to dump waste at sea is to introduce an EU-wide charging system in which the cost of waste disposal facilities was included in the basic port fee, which all ships would pay regardless of how much waste they offloaded (ENDS Daily 17 March). A version of the system operating in Baltic Sea ports has been successful, they say.

In its official response to the MEPs' proposed amendments, the Commission rubbishes the Parliament's position, saying there is "no evidence of a universally 'best' European-wide fee system". It says the no-special-fee system would even have the disadvantage of "not encouraging shipowners to introduce cleaner techniques, such as clean engine rooms."

Moreover, it says, since the basic port fee would have to increase, the no-special-fee would mean short-sea shipping operations, which use ports more frequently, would bear a disproportionate share of the cost. However, the Commission held out the prospect of a future change to the charging system: it would propose "further measures" if monitoring showed the system had "potential undesired effects". Ministers will now consider the proposed directive at second reading.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also its opinion on the parliament's amendments.

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