The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), a Brussels based organization founded in 1993 to represent European sea port, encourages ports to be proactive in protecting the environment by:

  • Providing guidance and preparing recommendations on environmental management (Green Guide)
  • Drafting guidelines on specific issues (e.g. nature protection)
  • Developing and promoting tools and methodologies for port environmental management (EcoPorts tools)
  • Providing the platform for port cooperation and sharing of environmental experience (EcoPorts network)
  • Visibility and credit to frontrunners (ESPO Award, EcoPorts labeling and certification)

Also, from feedback received from our members, ESPO makes public annually the top ten environmental priorities of European ports. For 2017, eu dship waste is considered as one of the most important priorities among others: air quality, energy consumption, noise, water quality, dredging-operations, garbage/ port waste, port development (land related), relationship with local community and climate change.

The PRF Directive was firstly introduced in 2000 and its revision started in 2015, in which ESPO had an active role. In particular, ESPO co-chaired the ESSF PRF working group including experts from Belgian, Dutch, Estonian, Finish, German, Greek, Irish, Italian and Swedish ports.

The main objectives of the revision of the PRF Directive are to tackle sea-based sources of marine litter, increase efficiency, reduce administrative burden and fully apply ‘polluter pays principle’ towards an efficient and responsible management.

The current Directive covers ship waste onshore. With regard to MARPOL Annex I to V and cargo residues, the ports provide with waste reception facilities for types and quantities of waste from ships normally using that port. Also, the current Directive regulates a fee system to provide incentives for ships to discharge waste onshore. Part of the fee is charged irrespective of quantities delivered by ships, at the level of 30% of total costs, meaning that the ships will pay it when they call at ports whether they deliver or not ship waste.

The new EU proposal aims to further align the EU law with MARPOL regime especially with regard to the waste delivery obligations. Whatever is lawfully discharged at sea under MARPOL, will be lawfully discharged under the revised Directive as well. Moreover, there is an alignment of the definition of waste with the Annexes in MARPOL and MARPOL Annex VI waste is also included under the scope of the new proposal.    The new proposal also aligns the forms for waste notification and waste receipt in line with IMO Circular.


What is also new is that for Annex V, the 30% indirect fee will go up to 100% for garbage and passively fished waste. This actually means that ships will pay the same fee whatever they deliver. ESPO recognises that providing the right incentives is equally important. The fee system introduced by the current Directive whereby ships are paying a fixed minimum fee when calling at a port, whether they are delivering waste or not, has certainly contributed to the delivery of increased quantities of waste on shore.

European ports understand that strengthening this incentive policy is part of the current proposal. However, introducing a fee system whereby ships can deliver unlimited amounts of garbage, including dangerous waste and cargo residues for a fixed fee seems to be a severe and unacceptable divergence from the ‘polluter pays’ principle. It risks to discourage tackling waste at source by reducing volumes generated onboard, which has been the cornerstone of the EU waste policy.

ESPO believes that the current directive has been successful in decreasing substantially ship waste discharged at sea, considering the spirit and objectives of the directive are still valid. Setting a price for an average quantity could be workable. But allowing ships to deliver even unreasonable quantities of garbage or dangerous waste for a fixed price would neither be responsible nor efficient. Equally we believe it is up to the port to decide if and when a rebate on the fee can be given to a ship.

Concluding, ESPO supports the objectives of the PRF directive and sees the revision as an opportunity for further improvement. It is acknowledgeable that an efficient and responsible waste management is needed, complemented by soft law instruments and guideline, where needed. Thus, ESPO is commited to continue contributing towards this direction through the legislative process.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.


Above text is an edited article of Sotiris Raptis' presentation during the 2018 GREEN4SEA Conference

View Sotiris Raptis’s presentation on Port Reception Facilities during the last GREEN4SEA Conference herebelow

Sotiris joined ESPO in November 2016 after working in the aviation and shipping team at T&E where he was responsible for the cleaner shipping campaign. Previously, he worked in the European Parliament  as a Policy Advisor on Transport, Climate Change and Environment for MEP Kriton Arsenis, some of his key files being CO2 emissions of the shipping sector, biofuels and indirect land-use change, as well as the revision of Water Framework directive and Environmental Impact Assessment directive. A qualified lawyer, Sotiris hails from northern Greece and speaks Greek and English. He studied at the University of Thessaloniki School of Law, the University of Athens School of Law as well as at the King’s College London Centre of European Law. Sotiris was awarded European Citizens’ Prize 2008 of the European Parliament as member of “G700” blog for promoting intergenerational justice. He loves good food and reading and his passions include politics and hiking.