Maritime transport is currently the most ecological means of transport. However the extent of the damage caused by discharges, oil spills or accidental chemical pollutions shows that it is far from being harmless. Surfrider’s « Maritime Transport & Infrastructures » programme aims at highlighting legislative shortcomings or discrepancies and guiding every party towards a proactive approach: prevent and dissuade so that shipping does no longer mean pollution.
For centuries seas and oceans have been considered as true geopolitical challenges. As the development of human activities and technological progress has brought further important risks for the environment, it quickly became apparent that common maritime law was needed to regulate this space. Increasing accidents and pollutions in relation to maritime transport made it mandatory for legislation to evolve in this sector. Admittedly even if the existing legislation is significant, it is however not sufficient to allow maritime transport to develop in safe surroundings.
The various types of pollutions due to maritime transport
Maritime transport is an anthropogenic polluting activity. While accidental pollutions such as oil spills for example are receiving more and more media exposure as they are the most impressive of all, there are more significant insidious pollutions affecting the marine environment.
- Illegal discharges which are equivalent to intentional tanks discharge and are composed of hydrocarbon residues resulting from the ship’s propulsion.
- Ballast waters discharges which allow the balancing of the vessel when loading and unloading: these waters contain aquatic microorganism transported from port to port including invasive species that are likely to threaten the equilibrium of native ecosystems.
- Domestic pollutions: blackwater or greywater loaded with pollutant substances; “antifouling” paint used for ship maintenance and to prevent corrosion in particular due to components such as biocides which release harmful substances for aquatic species; waste thrown at sea produced by ships and their crew.
- Atmospheric pollutions and especially greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
Today Surfrider is positioning itself as a key spokesperson and a vital European partner for the «Ocean issue». In its fight for ocean protection and conservation Surfrider opposes pollutions and ensures the implementation of the polluter-pays principle. Surfrider wishes to contribute to legislation change at national, European and international level by identifying risky behaviours and by proposing new measures that will increase maritime transport security.
10 years of enlightened lobbying
As part of the « Maritime Transport & Infrastructures » programme, many legal actions as well as an important lobbying work of European institutions have been able to be carried out over the past few years. In 10 years of lobbying in the maritime transport sector, Surfrider has gained the required experience to manage emergency situations more effectively.
Taking legal action
The « Maritime Transport & Infrastructures » programme aims at defending a sustainable development policy in European maritime transport. It is especially built around two approaches: legal research and legal action. With regard to the latter, Surfrider is systematically acting as civil party during proceedings for discharges of pollutant substances. Today, the organisation reports about twenty trials for discharges.
Inform and enlighten the general public
Faced with a society whose economic interests are all too often prioritised over environmental challenges, there is an ongoing need to find solutions to take a stand against such pollutions whether they be accidental or voluntary. In 2012, Sufrider organised an international conference on maritime security and published a report. It was a significant highpoint with the attendance of European deputies and members of the European Commission which gave the opportunity to inform and enlighten not only the general public and policymakers but also Surfrider’s members, supporters and volunteers on a complex issue with crucial legal and environmental challenges.