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Keeping The Environment Clean and Green/Blue – The Environmental Laws To Consider When Purchasing A Yacht

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Keeping The Environment Clean and Green Blue – The Environmental Laws To Consider When Purchasing A Yacht

If you are in the market for a yacht and are prepared to pay the price normally required to purchase one (we all know they don’t come cheap), you want to be 100% satisfied that it meets all the necessary environmental regulations. This is because the last thing you need is to find yourself on the wrong side of the MCA, or in breach of MARPOL, COLREGS or SOLAS (the maritime world is full of acronyms and the meaning of these will be explained as we go along).

In today’s environment conscious world, many prospective yacht and super-yacht purchasers are themselves concerned about the effect their yacht has on the environment around them. After all, sailing through the Mediterranean or Caribbean will not be enjoyable for anyone if their beautiful waters and coastlines are allowed to be spoiled with pollution and harmful emissions.

In 2010 Sauter Carbon Offset Design unveiled what it called “the world’s first carbon neutral megayacht”. Further developing the concept, in 2015, Turkish shipyard Nedship and Dutch company, Solarwave announced that the first of their zero emission solar yacht designs, the Solarwave 62′ model, is almost complete. While other yachts use solar panels for part of their operations, the Solarwave 62′ is unique because it will be the first to run entirely on the sun’s rays. And the price tag for being clean and green? The Solarwave 62’ will set you back between €2-2.5 million.

The Regulations and International Conventions Governing Yacht Owners and Operators’ Environmental Responsibilities

If your vessel is sailing in UK waters, or is registered in the United Kingdom, then the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will enforce the regulations that must be adhered to in compliance with the relevant environment legislation. The main legislation you need to be concerned with are known as the Merchant Shipping Regulations which include:

  • The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Sewage and Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/3257), which sets out provisions for the control of ship generated sewage and garbage.
  • The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 1996, which provides that oil should be maintained onboard and not discharged into the sea, unless it is necessary to do so in order to secure the safety of the ship or save human life.
  • The Merchant Shipping (Anti-Fouling Systems) Regulations 2009, which sets out the legal framework regarding prohibition of anti-fouling paints used on ships.

Yacht Classification Certificates

The goal of classification certificates in the context of vessels is to approve and confirm compliance with standards developed in respect of the operations of ships and to maintain this authorisation over time by carrying out periodic inspections and laboratory tests.

Classification certificates are issued by Classification Societies, whose function is to set out and maintain technical standards for the operation and construction of vessels they set. They achieve this by:

  • Stipulating what the technical rules are and whether or not particular designs and standards meet those rules
  • Surveying ships whilst they are being constructed
  • Ensuring that the components and machinery of a vessel meets the standards required for its class

Many of the standards a Classification Society will set relate to the prevention of marine pollution and the protection of the environment.

Some of the largest Classification Societies include:

  • Lloyd’s Register (LR) – founded in 1760, its stated aims are to enhance the safety of life, property, and the environment by helping its clients (including by validation, certification and accreditation) to ensure the quality construction and operation, of their vessels, offshore structures and shore-based installations. Vessels are regularly inspected and known as being in class if they meet all the minimum requirements of LR’s Rules, a factor which can affect the ability of a ship being able to obtain insurance.
  • RINA – one of the founders of IACS(International Association of Classification Societies), RINA Services dates back to 1861. Established in 1968, IACS has contributed to maritime safety and regulation through technical activities, compliance verification, research and development. It places strong emphasis on social responsibility and environmental protection as part of its accreditation scheme and is recognised throughout the world.
  • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) – based out of Houston, Texas and founded in 1982 as a not-for-profit organisation, the ABS aims to promote the security of life, property and the natural environment.

By investing the time into obtaining a classification certificate, a yacht owner or operator can be confident that they are achieving the highest standards of quality and efficiency in the phases of vessel design, construction and commissioning. They also provide a framework by which you, as an owner, can ensure your yacht is meeting its obligations under UK law and the various international conventions.

yacht-784121_1920International Conventions Pertaining to Maritime Environmental Law

Vessels also need to be compliant with various international conventions which are aimed at protecting the environment. A brief description of these is as follows:

MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships)

This is the main international convention aimed at preventing pollution of the marine environment from ships caused by the operation of vessels and accidents.

MARPOL is structured with various annexes and requires compliance depending on the specification of your vessel. It normally applies to vessels over 24 metres in length and engaged in international voyages.

COLREGS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea)

The COLREGS are published by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It is essentially the ‘Highway Code’ of the sea. It sets out steering and sailing rules, as well as the navigation lights a vessel must have and the sounds and light signals it must make in order to avoid collisions with other vessels.

SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea)

The SOLAS treaty was originally created in response to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and specified the number of lifeboats a ship was to carry along with other safety procedures.

SOLAS ensures compliance with navigation, radar reflectors, lifesaving signals, danger messages, distress situations, voyage planning, misuse of distress signals and the like.

These regulations normally apply to vessels over 24 metres in length engaged in international voyages.

In Summary

In order to comply with the various domestic and international regulations and conventions pertaining to vessels, owners and operators need expert legal advice to avoid costly fines, increased insurance premiums and/or their pride and joy being compounded. At Saracens Solicitors, we provide bespoke advice on the sale and purchase of luxury yachts and how our clients can ensure compliance with environmental regulations without it being a chore or an after-thought. To discuss any issues highlighted in this post, please call us on +44 (0)20 3588 3500.

Do you have any comments to make on this article? If so, please add them in the comments section below.



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