Turkey: The Turkish Law On Sea Pollution

Last Updated: 6 September 2005
Article by Tevfik Gur

"The Law on Intervention in Emergency Situations Deriving from the Pollution of the Sea by Petroleum and Other Harmful Materials and Compensation of the Losses" was accepted by the President of the Republic of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and published in the Official Gazette on the date of 11.03.2005.

The preamble of the Law, as published by the Turkish Parliament, is as follows: "Due to the common shipment of petroleum and other harmful materials by sea and the activities of the coastal facilities regarding petroleum and other harmful materials, sea pollution by petroleum and other harmful materials has become a serious threat. Despite all the precautions, the risk of propagation of petroleum and other harmful materials to the sea as a result of collisions, fires, explosions and other reasons is still extant. Thus, determination of the interventions and activities in case of such risks has gained vital importance. Effective intervention in emergency situations necessitates the determination of the duties and responsibilities of the concerned institutions, determination of the intervention methods, readiness in advance, organization and planning. On the other hand, a country’s effective intervention to the incidents that occur in its sea jurisdiction area is accepted as an indication and confirmation of the country’s sovereign rights.

It should be noted that it is possible to guarantee compensation of the losses deriving from sea pollution by petroleum and other harmful materials by bringing forth the liability of placing certain insurances for persons and companies that perform activities that are likely to cause such losses.

Considering the fact that Turkey is a country surrounded by seas and is constantly exposed to the risks deriving from the traffic of vessels carrying petroleum and other harmful materials, it is an indispensable necessity to incorporate the liabilities we have undertaken with international conventions to our domestic laws.

This bill was drafted in order to abolish the negativities that have occurred regarding intervention and compensation in the incidents that occurred in the Turkish straits and sea jurisdiction area."

The new Law brings forth a triple structure, consisting of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Maritime Undersecretariat and the Coastal Defense Headquarters. While the preparation of the National Emergency Intervention Plan, ascertainment of the losses and rehabilitation of the polluted areas is in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the duty of intervention in case of sea pollution has been assigned to the Maritime Undersecretariat and the Coastal Defense Headquarters have undertaken the responsibility of maintaining the public order.

In Article 3, paragraph (m), "petroleum" has been described as "the materials listed in the 1st Annex of Annex I of MARPOL 73/78 and in addition, crude petroleum, fuel oil, slac, refined products, and all the liquid hydro-carbon mixtures that naturally form below ground." In paragraph (d) of the same article, "other harmful materials" have been described as "the materials listed in the 2nd and 3rd Annexes of Annex II of MARPOL 73/78 and in addition, all materials except for radioactive materials that cause pollution when propagated to the sea." The vessels that constitute the scope of the Law are those that weigh more than 500 gross-tons and are loaded with petroleum and other harmful materials.

According to Article 5 of the Law, vessels that cannot prove conformity to the standards regarding sea-worthiness, load-worthiness and environmental safety, or those that create the impression that they are below such standards will not be allowed to enter the Turkish waters. Foreign vessels that have already entered the Turkish waters will be expelled immediately or will be granted a maximum time period of 30 days to conform to the standards. The vessels that cannot conform to the standards by the end of this time period will be expelled from the Turkish waters.

Article 5 of the Law brings forth the liability of informing the Maritime Undersecretariat about the properties of the vessel and the cargo 48 hours prior to entrance to Turkish waters. Vessels that fail to comply with this rule will not be allowed to enter Turkish waters.

Vessels carrying petroleum and other harmful materials have to possess the financial liability documents necessitated by the International Conventions signed by the Republic of Turkey in order to be able to enter Turkish waters. Vessels that do not possess the said financial guarantee documents will not be allowed to enter Turkish waters, and those that have already entered will be expelled immediately.

It has also been made obligatory for coastal facilities to place financial liability insurance. Coastal facilities that do not comply with this liability will not be permitted to activate.

The necessary materials and equipments that have to possessed and the personnel that has to be employed by coastal facilities will be determined with a Regulation and facilities that do not conform to these standards within the time limit that will be determined with the Regulation, will not be permitted to activate.

Article 6 of the Law states that, in incidents that occur with the involvement of two or more vessels and result in sea pollution, all the vessels that are involved in the incident will be jointly and severally liable for the losses that occur.

According to Article 3, paragraph (n) of the Law, the responsible parties regarding sea pollution are the owners, managers, Masters, charterers, possessors of the vessels and coastal facilities and their guarantors.

The new Law has been put into force on the date of 11.06.2005, three months after its publication date. While some members of the Turkish Parliament and part of the press are still against this new Law, the general opinion is positive. Seven members of the Turkish Parliament recently declared their dissential opinion with the justification that the new Law has totally ignored the role of non-governmental organizations and has not brought forth any arrangements regarding the precautions about sea pollution. It has been stated in the declaration that "The Law was not prepared with an environmentalist point of view. It was prepared with commercial pursuits and is far from meeting the expectations." However, the Law was appreciated by most of the press and the public opinion is that the Law is an important milestone in the history of Turkish Maritime.

"This is a belated law", admits Veli Kaya, member of the Turkish Parliament. "47,000 vessels pass from the Bosphorus every year, 70 percent of which are loaded with petroleum."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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