An answer to ecological disgrace in Ukrainian ports

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during his visit to Odessa in July, ordered to suspend ecological inspections of foreign ships entering Ukrainian ports. An initiative was put forward as a result of numerous complaints about extortion and unjustified delays of ships by ecological inspection. No doubt, this fact puts Ukraine in an unfavorable light in the world shipping industry.

For example, on July 10th in port of Chernomorsk, ecological inspection boarded the vessel Clipper Polaris to take water samples. On July 11th the inspection lodged some claims against the vessel Harvest Moon in port of Nikolayev. At the beginning of July the same story happened in port Yuzhny with MV Anangel Happiness registered under the Greek flag.

On this occasion, on July 17th, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted new Procedure on cooperation of state authorities in terms of environmental protection in ports, which sets an exact algorithm of actions of state structures. Under the new rules, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority (USPA) carries out regular monitoring of conditions of port waters. In case of detection of pollution, USPA informs ecological inspection. The latter takes samples and gives them to a laboratory for analysis. If pollution is proved to be, ecologists may board a ship with a Maritime administration representative. 

– The Cabinet’s decision will eventually help us to introduce transparent rules for carrying out inspections in Ukraine and to provide effective communication between all the parties concerned – port administrations, ecological inspection and shipowners, – commented USPA manager Raivis Veckagans.

On July 19th, Maritime Chamber of Ukraine jointly with “ANK” law firm initiated training seminar for ship agents “Ecological inspections of ships: how to protect a shipowner effectively?” At the seminar speakers familiarized participants with a short manual, including several rules, standards and regulations, which every agent and ratings should know. First of all, there is no law or directive in Ukraine, allowing ecological inspectors to board a sea vessel without an accompanying person from Maritime administration, to take samples, require documents, take testimony from crewmembers etc.  At the seminar one more time focus was put on the fact that ecological inspection doesn’t check segregated ballast. The code of merchant shipping doesn’t stipulate the right of ecological inspection to delay ships.

Usually ecological inspection covers up its actions with such phrases as “collection of data about mass phenomena and processes”, “identification/observation of pollution source”, “collection of samples of recycled water/ water from “segregated ballast system” of the vessel”. As a result, a shipowner is offered “to pay a voluntary indemnification”, which is calculated in dollars, but the payment has to be made in hryvnas.

What should a master know and do in case of ecological inspection? First, he should inform his P&I Club, follow its instructions and contact a local P&I correspondent. Second, he should hand in a protest letter to a harbor master and other parties concerned. Third, he is to give all necessary information to an agent and documents for further appeal against unlawful actions of ecologists.

It is also vital to remember that under Article 268 of the Code of Ukraine about administrative offences a master has a right to give testimony in his native language and require translation of a protocol and/or resolutions in his native language. Responsibility to provide a translator rests with an official, drawing up a protocol.

If nothing from the above mentioned helped and a ship has to pay penalty, then alongside with the payment you should hand in a disclaimer letter, which later on will be used in court. Payment order must have a special remark about crediting to a budget. You should notify a harbor master and ecologists in a written form about payment of penalty and require an immediate release of a ship.

Certainly it is better not to bring the situation to penalties and disgrace of ecological inspection. It should be noted that the crew has a right not to allow ecologists to board a ship, and to notify a harbor master and a P&I Club shipowner about such attempts.