The Turkish Environmental Code (the “Code”) stipulates that the Ministry of Environment Urbanization and Climate Change (the “Ministry”) regularly conducts inspections upon the suspicion of marine pollution and imposes administrative sanctions that have deterrent effects on vessels that pollute the sea. The Ministry can delegate this authority to particular provincial administrations, including the municipalities with environmental inspection departments or the General Directorate of Security and the Coast Guard Command pursuant to The Regulation on Environmental Inspection (the “Regulation”).
In 2011, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s Circular numbered 2011/9 announced that the Ministry delegated this authority to the Environmental Protection and Control Directorates of Istanbul, Kocaeli, Mersin and Antalya Metropolitan Municipalities as well as Harbor Master’s Offices and Coast Guard Commands. In line with their authority, these delegated organs have since carried out regular inspections to ensure sea vehicles using Turkish waters had been complying with the Code and, when needed, imposed administrative sanctions.
By a new Circular numbered 2023/3 (the “Circular”), the Istanbul and Kocaeli Municipalities have now been removed from the list of authorised authorities but instead the Turkish Environmental Agency (the “Agency”) has been added. Accordingly, these entities are able to act on behalf of the Ministry during the inspection of the vessel-sourced pollution in the seas as well as the imposition of administrative sanctions.
Among the above-mentioned five organs, the Agency which is in charge of the Sea of Marmara, including the Bosphorus, as well as Black Sea and Gulf of Izmit, is relatively new. The Agency was established in 2020 in order to fight against the environmental pollution by expanding green areas, improving resource efficiency in line with circular economy and zero-waste approach as well as by fulfilling the activities aiming at the establishment, operation, supervision and monitoring of a deposit-return management system at a national system. The Circular announces that the Agency is delegated to control marine pollution originating from the vessels by inspecting the suspicious cases in the specified area under its control and imposing administrative sanctions on the vessels that do not comply with the prohibitions, standards and obligations within the scope of the provisions in the Code and in the relevant regulations. Furthermore, the Agency is authorized to impose administrative sanctions listed in the Code on all sea vehicles except the oil tankers of 150 GRT and above as well as other vessels of 400 GRT in cases they do not keep required information, documents and electronic waste tracking systems in accordance with the environmental legislation and international rules regarding the waste of yachts, fishing vessels, boats and all other vessels. The Agency would also be competent to impose a penalty on the vessels if they violate the legislation of foreign states and the latter demand their punishment from the Turkish authorities. Last but not least, upon imposing the administrative sanction on the vessels in accordance with the Code, the Agency is supposed to file a criminal complaint against the vessels for polluting the environment recklessly or on purpose. The Circular announces that the Ministry delegates the same authority to the harbor master’s offices, coast guards as well as Mersin and Antalya Metropolitan Municipalities.
The Circular does not explain the background and the reasons for this change although our readers ought to be aware of the authority they will now be dealing with in case they are faced with an allegation of marine pollution in the relevant regions.