Notices 14 September 2004
The above French expression inserted in some of the Marpol Convention might create some difficulties when interpreted by foreign Authorities.
Recently, we came across a case involving the Marpol Convention. The case involved German Port Authorities and German statutes. The issue was the precise meaning of the “en route” definition.
As per article 3.1 of Unified Interpretation of the Annex II of the Marpol Convention, the “en route” definition is as follows:
En route means that the ship is under way at sea on a course, or courses which so far as practicable for navigational purposes will cause any discharge to be spread over as great an area of the sea as is practicable.
The common understanding of “en route” would logically be that the vessel sails by her own means but not imperatively between two ports. A vessel leaving a port A would not be considered in breach of the Marpol regulations if after dumping operations, she comes back to port A in order to perform new commercial operations.
As long as the course of the vessel is made to ensure that the vessel strictly complies with the requirements of the Marpol convention and covers the largest zone, no difficulty should arise and it should be accepted that the vessel complies with Rule 5 of the Annex II of the Marpol convention.
It is interesting to note that as per German Authorities, the notion of “en route” imposes that the vessel has to trade / navigate between at least two different ports. Failing such, any dumping operations made by a vessel even in strict compliance with the Marpol technical requirements, should be considered as an infringement of the Marpol regulations.
Apparently Spain has adopted a similar approach as the German one, and it would not be much of a surprise if French authorities were also to follow the German line of interpretation.
As per research done by the local correspondent in Hamburg, other European countries such as Belgium, England, the Netherlands and Italy do have a different interpretation.
Although quite strict, the German Authorities’ position is acceptable, bearing in mind that the various German ports have invested in equipment permitting vessels to discharge oil and waste residues under attractive financial conditions. It is also worth mentioning that the sanction for this violation of the Marpol regulations, which qualifies as a criminal offence, is usually the payment of a fine by the Master of the vessel and the officer in charge at the time of the violation. The fine’s amount is usually three times the monthly earnings of the Master and the Officer.
It should be remembered that liability in respect of fine for pollution is not covered if such pollution does not result from an accidental cause.
Therefore, due to this variety of interpretations of the “en route” definition, it is highly advisable that before taking any ship’s action which may be linked to the Marpol Convention, the Master should obtain precise information from the agent about the interpretation of the Marpol regulations made by the local authorities of the next port(s) of call.
Jean François REBORADirect Line: +33 (0)220.127.116.11.67Mobile: +33(0)6.03.09.92.17Fax: +33 (0)18.104.22.168.61E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.francepandi.com
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