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Protecting the sea and the food chain from the effects of organotin compounds

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Protecting the sea and the food chain from the effects of organotin compounds

A ban on the use of certain chemical compounds on ships and nets can help protect the marine environment and human health.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 782/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 April 2003 on the prohibition of organotin compounds on ships

SUMMARY

WHAT DOES THE REGULATION DO?

This regulation incorporates the rules of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Anti-Fouling Systems (AFS) Convention* into European Union (EU) law. It aims to prohibit organotin compounds on all ships entering EU ports in order to reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of these products.

KEY POINTS

What are organotin compounds?

Organotin compounds are chemicals from anti-fouling paints used on boat hulls and nets. These surface coatings act as biocides, designed to prevent the attachment of algae, molluscs and other organisms which slow down vessel speeds.

What are their effects?

They are highly toxic for sea life (larvae, mussels, oysters and fish) and, for this reason, have been banned in many EU countries.

The regulation applies to:

  • ships flying the flag of an EU country;
  • ships not flying the flag of an EU country but operating under the authority of an EU country;
  • ships entering a port in an EU country but not covered by the two previous points.

It does not apply to any warship, naval auxiliary or other ships owned by a State, whether part of the EU or not, and used on government service.

It imposes the following restrictions:

  • from 1 July 2003, organotin compounds which act as biocides in AFS may no longer be applied on ships flying the flag of an EU country;
  • from 1 January 2008, ships entering port in an EU country must either bear no coating of organotin compounds acting as biocides or must bear a second layer to prevent organotin compounds escaping from the non-compliant anti-fouling under layer.

Survey and certification

The regulation introduces a survey and certification system for ships flying the flag of an EU country. It requires:

  • ships of 400 gross tonnage and above to be surveyed and certified, irrespective of the voyage;
  • ships of 24 metres or more in length, but less than 400 gross tonnage, to simply carry a declaration of compliance with the regulation or with the AFS Convention.
  • no survey or certification is envisaged for ships of less than 24 metres in length, i.e. mainly pleasure and fishing boats.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 536/2008, which amends the original regulation, sets out how ships flying the flag of a non EU country must comply with the restrictions. It requires:

  • ships flying the flag of a State which is party to the AFS Convention to show their compliance through an international AFS certificate;
  • ships flying the flag of a State which is not a party to the AFS Convention to hold a statement of compliance issued by the flag State in accordance with the AFS Convention and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO.

KEYWORDS

* International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems : an agreement prohibiting the use of harmful organotins in anti-fouling paints used on ships and which creates a mechanism to prevent the potential future use of other harmful substances in AFS.

For more information, see AFS on the European Maritime Safety Agency’s website.

REFERENCES

Act

Date of entry into force

Deadline for implementation in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 782/2003

10.5.2003

-

OJ L 115, 9.5.2003, pp. 1-11

Amending act(s)

Date of entry into force

Deadline for implementation in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 536/2008

4.7.2008

-

OJ L 156, 14.6.2008, pp. 10-11

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009

20.4.2009

-

OJ L 87, 31.3.2009, pp. 109-154

last update 25.08.2015

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