New European maritime policy for cleaner oceans and seas

New European maritime policy for cleaner oceans and seas

Marko Pavliha
Professor, Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transportation, University of Ljubljana

Si tu veux construire un bateau,
ne rassemble pas des hommes pour
aller chercher du bois, préparer des outils,
répartir les téches, alléger le travail,
mais enseigne aux gens la nostalgie
d l’infini de la mer.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Introduction: ab imo pectore

I have been lecturing at the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) for 10 years and have known Professor Attard for the same period of time, not only as a top world-known and influential scholar in his field of international law and especially the law of the sea but also as my informal mentor and a close friend. It is quite astonishing and remarkable that whatever he touches with his hands, brain and soul it turns into pure gold, e.g. IMLI, the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC) and even the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which was inspired by his proposal, to mention only a few of Professor Attard’s achievements. It would take at least one more book to describe his impressive curriculum vitae, but let me just mention at this occasion – although somewhat egoistically – that he is also an Honorary Member of the Maritime Law Association of Slovenia! We are very proud of him.

My first and at that occasion indirect experience with IMLI – which was established under the auspices of the IMO – was in April 1992 when further to my letter I received a kind reply from Mr William O’Neil, then Secretary-General of the IMO. He informed me – if I may say openly – in a rather ‘Hollywood-inspired’ style that while there were no current vacancies which matched my particular specialization in charterparties, my dossier would be retained on their roster for future reference in case suitable openings arose. At that time I was still in Canada, where I had just completed my doctoral studies at McGill Law Faculty under the supervision of Professor William Tetley and where I was working at one of the downtown law firms in Montreal.

At the end of October 1992, I returned to my native country, Slovenia – which in the meantime became an independent state and in 2008 also a Member of the EU – and continued my interest in being associated with the work of the IMO. In February 1993, Slovenia became a Member of the IMO and in November of the same year, I wrote my first letter to IMLI. We maintained close relations ever since, and I started lecturing at the Institute as a visiting fellow in the academic year of 1998/99.

For the past 20 years IMLI has been perfectly serving the rule of international maritime law. I can say enthusiastically that it has always been a wonderful and extremely fulfilling experience. Each year I meet dozens of students from numerous countries (e.g. in 2008, 37 students from 24 countries). It is probably the only place on earth that brings together so many cultures, languages and legal experience in order to achieve a better and more harmonized unification of maritime law and the law of the sea. While politicians and others are usually just talking about the intercultural dialogue, IMLI is actually doing it.

Like the famous Comité Maritime International (CMI), IMLI, too, contributes in many ways to the unification of maritime and commercial law, maritime customs, usages and practices. Postgraduate students learn how to understand and implement international conventions, as well as how to adopt them efficiently into their national legislations. According to Professor Tetley, the purpose of any international convention may be summed up in three principles: uniformity of law, certainty of law and justice. I can say without hesitation that these principles are the spiritus agens of IMLI.

Last but not least, I am always impressed by the vast knowledge, international reputation and hospitality of the members of the Institute’s faculty, as well as of the supporting staff which all treat me as ‘one of their own’. ‘IMLI’ could easily stand for ‘implementing measures for loving internationality’.

So much about IMLI and Professor Attard. Initially I wanted to write something on marine insurance law but I changed my mind and decided to shed some light on the new European maritime policy with a special emphasis on marine environment protection. I firmly believe that IMLI should play an important role also in this regard, educating students to learn how to think globally and act locally in their own countries.

Europe: a maritime continent

Once upon a time the famous writer Arthur C. Clarke exclaimed with a bitter enthusiasm: ‘How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean’.

He could not be more right, as we all came from the water and will eventually return to it in order to find new energy resources, food and perhaps even space to live! ‘All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean … and when we go back to the sea … we are going back from whence we came’, said John F. Kennedy.

This is why we should re-examine our attitude not only towards the whole globe, but especially with respect to the continent of Europe which is surrounded by four seas – the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the North and the Black Sea – and by the two oceans – the Atlantic and the Arctic. The marine space is not ‘only’ 1,300 million cubic kilometres of water, but it is also a place for transport, travel and trade; a source of income for five million Europeans; a source of life, food, energy and medicine; a source for discovery and research; a precious natural environment and the world’s climate regulator.

Unfortunately it is also a huge, dangerous and unpleasant sewage coming from land-based sources, vessels, seabed activities, atmosphere and by dumping – especially alarming is the plague of plastic. We are assaulting the oceans and they will smite us if we do not take care.

The maritime surface areas under the jurisdiction of the EU Member States are larger than the total land area of the EU. The EU has a coastline of approximately 70,000 kilometres which is over three times longer than that of the USA and almost twice than that of Russia. No European resident lives more than 700 kilometres away from the coast – almost one-half of the EU’s population lives fewer than 50 kilometres from the sea – although the population is concentrated in urban areas along the coast.

It is impressive to note that 90 per cent of external trade and 40 per cent of internal trade of the EU is seaborne; more than 1,200 European ports host 3.5 billion tons of cargo and 350 million passengers per year. Between 3 and 5 per cent of the EU GDP is estimated to be generated from sea-related industries and services, without including the value of raw materials, such as oil, fish or gas.

Europe is beyond doubt the leader in shipping with 40 per cent of the world fleet. Shipyards and marine equipment suppliers provide 0.8 million direct and indirect highly skilled jobs and account for a turnover of 90 billion Euros. Europe is the world leader in the production of highly sophisticated vessels such as ferries and cruise ships. Fisheries and aquaculture provide for 0.5 million jobs and 0.3 per cent of the EU GDP equating to about 20 billion Euros per year; aquaculture accounts for 19 per cent of the Union’s total fishery production; tourism and coastal zones accounts for about 3 million jobs with a turnover of 72 billion Euros in 2005. Last but not least, new resources and blue biotechnology is an emerging sector with a predicted annual growth of 10 per cent and a global market of 2.4 billion Euros.1

Given these facts, it was just a matter of time before European politicians and officials would realize that maritime sectors and resources are critical to Europe’s economy and our well-being. A few years ago it happened for the first time in the history of the EU that the sea as a whole became the subject of political focus and Europe’s maritime dimension was declared as a strategic priority for the European Commission. The idea was to launch a ‘blue-focused’ Green Paper in order to

1 Maritime facts and figures, European Commission, On-line at:

initiate and motivate a wide public debate on a future integrated and sustainable maritime policy for the EU.

The Green Paper

On 7 June 2006 the Green Paper, entitled ‘Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas’2 was adopted by the European Commission.

The document was dedicated to five categories of activities, namely:

(a) retaining Europe’s leadership in sustainable maritime development;

(b) maximizing quality of life in coastal regions;

(c) providing the tools to manage our relations with the oceans;

(d) maritime governance; and

(e) reclaiming Europe’s maritime heritage and reaffirming Europe’s maritime identity.

The adoption of the Green Paper triggered the admirable consultation process. Over 490 contributions were received and around 230 events had been held where maritime policy was discussed with various stakeholders in the year-long consultation on future maritime policy.

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