Mediterranean countries launch a surveillance network of illicit discharges - 80.000 tons of hydrocarbons discharged in the Mediterranean by vessels every year – Nov 30, 2007

Marseilles, November 30, 2007 --- Sixty experts representing all Mediterranean countries met this week in Marseilles within the framework of the Barcelona Convention, and decided to establish a legal co-operation on a Mediterranean scale, and soon an inter-state co-operation. Both initiatives will reinforce the monitoring, in particular by aerial means and new satellite technologies, and will allow to carry out common operations of control of maritime transport activities in the Mediterranean (1).

"Within the framework of the Barcelona Convention, the Contracting Parties decided to establish a powerful legal co-operation between Mediterranean countries, in order to apply an effective control of the sea traffic, and thus be able to intervene in case of infringement", declared Frederic Hébert, Director of the REMPEC, the regional activity centre of UNEP/MAP managed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and whose activities concentrate on the prevention and the control of pollution caused by ships.

In the long term, the goal of REMPEC is the establishment of a Mediterranean jurisdictional network, on the model of that developed by the Bonn Agreement for the North Sea (1969).

Each year, from 70 to 80,000 tons of hydrocarbons (2) are rejected into the Mediterranean because of maritime transport activities. Contrary to a generally accepted idea, these rejections are not the result of oil tankers operations only, but all ships and vessels contribute to it because of their daily operations, of their mode of propulsion and of the fuel employed, which produce residues.

The MARPOL Convention, entered into force in 1983, sets in its annex I the acceptable standards of rejection and request all Contracting Parties to take measures to sanction their non-respect. In the Mediterranean, a special zone as defined by the MARPOL Convention, if the rejections resulting from the operation of the ships are tolerated as far as they do not exceed 15 parts per million, the rejections coming from the tanks of oil tankers cargo are prohibited.

Beyond the legal framework of integration of the MARPOL Convention in national law, which often has been lacking, the main issues faced by States concern the difficulty in obtaining real-time evidence of infringement and the different degrees of acceptable proof for the various jurisdictions.

With the creation of an Ecological Protection Zone under its jurisdiction, the Marseilles Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) showed an effective example of how the Mediterranean coastal states will be able to exert a tighter control and to pursue the pollutants in the event of infringement.

"With regard to the Mediterranean countries, it appeared interesting to make use of the French experience by illustrating the contributions of the tools specialised in infringements research (customs), of the creation of a zone of jurisdiction represented by the Ecological Protection Zone, the establishment of specialized jurisdictions and of a jurisprudential work on the admissibility of the proof, an issue where France is in advance over other national practices", declared Daniel Louedec, Director of the National School of Merchant navy of Marseilles.

The last case of legal prosecution for an infringement in the French ecological protection zone in the Mediterranean dates of last week, when a fine of 750,000 euros was issued against a foreign ship.

Notes to editors:

(1) The 1st seminar devoted to this subject, MEDEXPOL 2007, took place this week in Marseilles, in the buildings of the national School of the merchant navy, where representatives of all the Mediterranean countries gathered within the framework of the United Nations Barcelona Convention (UNEP/MAP, the Mediterranean Action Plan) and of REMPEC.

For the first time, magistrates of several Mediterranean countries and representatives of NGOs active in the field of marine pollution control (WWF, LEGAMBIENTE, IUCN) worked together with representatives of the maritime industry (OCIMF, CMA-CGM).

(2) This figure is based on studies carried out by a panel of experts, the GESAMP (Group of Experts one Sampling and Monitoring of Marine Pollution), bringing together experts of various organizations of the United Nations and representatives of maritime industry and environmental protection NGOs.

For more information please contact Luisa Colasimone, GSM +30 6949122746 or