Dr. N.J. Margetson, partner at Margetson Van ‘t Zelfde & Co.

Under Marpol Annex II noxious liquid substances may be discharged as long as the discharge is in accordance with Regulation which provides as one of the conditions for discharge that: “the ship is proceeding en route at a speed of at least 7 knots in the case of self-propelled ships or at least 4 knots in the case of ships which are not self-propelled.”

In the Netherlands the Dutch public prosecutor pressed charges against a number of tankers which left port with the intention of cleaning tanks in accordance with the provisions of Marpol. The public prosecutor contended that a ship which leaves port, washes its tanks at sea and after that returns to the same port, is not “en route” as meant in Marpol Regulation and therefore commits a criminal offence.

In an earlier publication on this website I discussed a judgment of the Amsterdam District Court in which it was held that the public prosecutor’s construction of the words “en route” was incorrect. In a different case concerning the same issue the court of first instance held the same. On appeal that decision was affirmed. By judgment of 16 December 2014 (ECLI:NL:HR2014:3633) the Supreme Court of the Netherlands affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal.

This makes clear that the expression “en route” does not mean that a vessel must leave port A and enter port B when washing tanks in accordance with the provisions of Marpol. Tankers which leave a port to wash tanks in accordance with the provisions of Marpol and after that return to the same port are not in breach of the provisions of Marpol.


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