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EU Parliament and Council reach agreement on deal on stricter measures to stop shipping pollution

The European Parliament and Council negotiators reached an informal deal to extend an existing ban on the discharge of oil spills by ships to include sewage and garbage, updating EU rules on preventing pollution from ships in European seas and ensuring perpetrators face fines.

According to the deal, the current list of substances banned from being discharged from ships, such as oil and noxious liquid substances, will now include the discharge of sewage, garbage and residues from scrubbers.

“Ensuring the health of our seas demands not just legislation, but robust enforcement. Member states must not falter in their duty to safeguard our marine environment,” said EP rapporteur Marian-Jean Marinescu. “We need a concentrated effort, utilising advanced technologies like satellite monitoring and on-site inspections, to stamp out illegal discharges effectively. Penalties must reflect the seriousness of these offences, acting as a true deterrent. Our commitment is clear: cleaner seas, stricter accountability and a sustainable maritime future for all.”

MEPs managed to secure an obligation for the EU to review the rules five years after their transposition into national law to assess if marine plastic litter, loss of containers and plastic pellet spills from ships should also face penalties.

MEPs ensured EU countries and the Commission will communicate more on pollution incidents, best practices to tackle pollution and follow-up measures, following alerts by the European satellite system for oil spill and vessel detection, CleanSeaNet. To prevent illegal discharge from dispersing and therefore becoming undetectable, the agreed text foresees the digital check of all high-confidence CleanSeaNet alerts and an aim to verify at least 25 per cent of them by the competent national authorities.

EU countries will need to introduce effective and dissuasive fines for ships breaching these rules, while criminal sanctions were addressed in separate legislation MEPs already agreed with EU governments last November.

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