Client Alert:

Time to be an Everyday Heroine to Save the Earth as the Authorities Issue Regulations to Protect It!

Time to be an Everyday Heroine to Save the Earth as the Authorities Issue Regulations to Protect It!

“Only Ten Years Left to Fix Climate Emergency” is the summary of the World Economic Forum Press Release on 20th February 2020. Why should we care about the WEF’s 2020 Global Risks Report? The answer is simple: if we do not act now, it will be inevitable to leave an uninhabitable planet to the next generations. (If “the next generation” sounds alienating, replace it with the name of your own child/grandchild.) It may be easy to silence the warnings in scientific TV shows about, let say, rising sea levels with a single finger click on the TV router. However, as the last decade has gradually taught us, it is not that easy to silence the warnings of the nature in the form of increasing amount of heatwaves, floods, wildfires as well as COVID-19, collapsing food chains and spreading famines leading to an urgent migrant crisis. Then read the same sentence again: “Only Ten Years Left to Fix Climate Emergency.” Isn’t it time to act?

Many environmental risks are connected. Marine pollution, for instance, contributes to climate change dramatically both through direct GHG emissions and indirectly by negatively affecting marine organisms. There are many causes of marine pollution. Conducting around 90% of the world trade, maritime transport has an important place in marine pollution through all of its components including vessels, ports and shipyards. We have already discussed in our previous Client Alerts that national and international authorities have been combatting environmental crisis through various ways, including the management of maritime transport. This is a fundamental struggle considering that marine pollution does not affect only marine life organisms but also global health, resources and climate emergency in general.

Besides environment-friendly rules for the construction, maintenance and management of vessels, ports and shipyards, there have been new regulations in Turkey for even smaller boat manufacturing sites and slipway sites that have also been perceived as potential environmental pollutants within the context of environmental policies. This Client Alert focuses on "the Regulation on the Environmental Management of Shipyards, Boat Manufacturing Sites and Slipway Sites" (“the Regulation”), which entered into force having been published in the Official Gazette on December 7, 2022, within the framework of the above-mentioned struggle against marine pollution in Turkey.

The Regulation contributes to the determination of material and procedural framework regarding the environmental management of pollutants that cause sea pollution and long-term ecosystem destruction due to the services of construction, modification, maintenance and repair at the shipyards, boat manufacturing sites and slipway sites in Turkey except the inland waters, as per the Coastal Law numbered 3621. As defined in Article 3 of the Regulation, shipyard refers to a facility that includes the operations of the construction, maintenance, repair and modifications of vessels and sea vehicles in all types and sizes; boat manufacturing site refers to a facility that serves the vessels and sea vehicles up to seventy-five meters in full length and up to one hundred and twenty-five meters in length provided that the physical conditions on land and sea are suitable; and slipways refers to a facility that provides the same services to vessels and sea vehicles up to sixty meters in full length (altogether “the Facilities”). Increasing the number of the Facilities would inevitably lead to greater levels of marine pollution. Therefore, the Regulation aims to minimize the negative impacts of the Facilities on the environment by having the required infrastructure and establishing effective procedures in line with the measures and precautions it proposes.

For instance, it is prohibited for the Facilities to carry out scraping, painting, cutting, sanding and assembly operations for the purposes of maintenance and repair of vessels on the sea surface without taking proper precautions listed under the Third Section of the Regulation. Similarly, a list of materials is cited as prohibited to use for the Facilities in line with the national and international conventions. Once a vessel arrives at the Facilities, it cannot start the maintenance processes before making sure that all wastes are discharged and all waste-water is treated in line with the Regulation on Waste Control and Waste Collection from Vessels (dd. 26 December 2004)

Managers for the Facilities hosting vessels larger than 400 GT are obliged to obtain a temporary operating certificate and an environmental license from the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change (“the Ministry”). The Ministry then reviews the annual reports of the Facilities regularly and checks their plans for sediment management at five year intervals. The Facilities are also required to establish, individually or jointly, sediment reception services with sufficient capacity and technical equipment to collect sediments from the ballast water of the vessels that visit the Facilities for maintenance and repair purposes. On the other hand, it is an obligation for the operators of vessels larger than 400 GT to have their sediments collected only at the licensed facilities. Sediments are taken, transported and discharged as per the national and international environmental regulations at the earliest convenience in order to avoid any harm that may be caused during the waiting period.

The impact of the Facilities’ water colony, sea sediment and biota on the marine environment are monitored regularly by collecting samples from all of the Facilities and their surroundings. Macro-benthos sampling is also performed in every three years. These samples, which are mostly collected from the same coordinates each year to see the changes over time, are analyzed at the laboratories authorized by the Ministry.

The Facilities send their monitoring reports to the Ministry in written and electronic form during the renewal process of their environmental permit and in the third year of the Facilities operation. These reports also include information on their activities, its materials and equipment, its measures to reduce the negative impacts on the environment, the wastes generated out of the clean production techniques at the Facilities, and the management of these wastes. The Facilities that do not abide by the legislations are penalized by administrative fines as per the Environmental Law numbered 2872.

The Regulation, in this sense, is a contribution to Turkey’s effort to protect its marine environment. We know that marine pollution has been a concern for the global authorities for the past several decades and it will, most probably, continue to be so for several decades to come. However, the formulation of such regulations is not enough to save our world. Note that the time of big heroes leading people to triumph through mass movements has already passed and a new understanding of dispersed leadership tell us what we need now: We must have everyday heroines and heroes in each quarter of the cities to save the world from a dramatic end! Therefore, the regulations and international conventions can protect the marine environment only if we realize that it is time for us to become ordinary hero/ines to avoid these environmental disasters. Then, the question is simple: Do you choose to wait for someone to try to save you whenever they feel like it or become an everyday hero/ine to protect the earth?

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