Client Alert:

Revised Environmental Marine Pollution Fines for 2017

Revised Environmental Marine Pollution Fines for 2017

Pursuant to Article 20 of the Turkish Environmental Code no. 1983 (the “Code”), fines are imposed on vessels for causing pollution in Turkish waters through discharge of petroleum products, dirty ballast, garbage and sewage into the sea. The quantum of the fines are determined by a tariff that is revised annually. The tariff below contains the updated rates for the year 2017 and will enter into force on 1 January 2017.

1. Petrol and petroleum products discharged by tankers:

Up to 1,000 (inclusive) gross tons TRY 84.91 per GT
Between 1,000 and 5,000 (inclusive) gross tons An additional TRY 21.18 per GT
Over 5,000 gross tons An additional TRY 2.03 per GT

2. Dirty ballast discharged by tankers:

Up to 1,000 (inclusive) gross tons TRY 63.67 per GT
Between 1,000 and 5,000 (inclusive) gross tons An additional TRY 12.70 per GT
Over 5,000 gross tons An additional TRY 2.03 per GT

3. Petrol/petroleum products and dirty ballast discharged by vessels or any other marine vehicles:

Up to 1,000 (inclusive) gross tons TRY 42.44 per GT
Between 1,000 and 5,000 (inclusive) gross tons An additional TRY 8.45 per GT
Over 5,000 gross tons An additional TRY 2.03 per GT

4. Garbage and sewage discharged by vessels or any other marine vehicles:

Up to 1,000 (inclusive) gross tons TRY 21.18 per GT
Between 1,000 and 5,000 (inclusive) gross tons, An additional TRY 4.18 per GT
Over 5,000 gross tons An additional TRY 0.79 per GT

It should be noted that vessels discharging hazardous substances are fined 10 times the amounts indicated for petroleum products in tariff 1 and 3 above. Vessels which pollute the environment repeatedly also face heavier fines: first recurrence within 3 years will lead to the doubling of the fine whereas second and further recurrences will lead to a 200% increase. On the other hand, if the vessel manages to remove the pollution by her own means, only 1/3 of the above rates are imposed.

In addition to the administrative measures specified above, authorities that detect a pollution incident are under an obligation to report the incident to the public prosecutor immediately. Subsequently, the public prosecutor will commence a criminal investigation into the incident which is usually followed by criminal proceedings brought against the master of the vessel.

The fines issued by the authorities due to an alleged pollution must be paid or sufficient and suitable security must be put up immediately and in full. Otherwise the vessel is arrested. If the fine is paid within 30 days, a 1/4 discount becomes applicable.

Even though the Code specifically mentions P&I Club letters of undertaking as an accepted form of security, in practice, authorities have been reluctant to accept club letters. In order to overcome this, the Turkish Chamber of Shipping has been drafting a suitable standard wording to be used in club letters of undertaking and negotiating the same with the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. The aim is to establish a standard format for letters of undertaking to be issued by P&I Clubs in cases of alleged pollution which would be accepted by all Turkish authorities in every Turkish port. However, as the position is not yet clear, for the time being, security should either be in cash or in the form of a bank letter of guarantee.

Objections against fines can be filed with the Administrative Court within 30 days of notification. It should be taken into consideration that an objection does not stop the collection of the fine. Therefore, the usually followed course of action is to pay the fine within 30 days benefitting from the 1/4 discount and then filing an objection with the Administrative Court if there are sufficient grounds to do so.

We must point out that challenging pollution fines may be difficult because the applicable legislation provides for a caveat which, in practice, allows the authorities to impose fines without verifying the existence of the pollution with sufficient evidence.

In recent years, we have seen stricter measures employed by the authorities in the application of environmental protection measures against pollution. At ErsoyBilgehan, with our vast experience in environmental law and pollution incidents, we advise and represent our clients in objections against administrative fines as well as in criminal proceedings in relation to the same.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.

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