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Disposal of waste generated on a container ship following a cargo fire

Handling the waste generated onboard a box ship following a fire is not easy - as it will normally contain tonnes of fire fighting water mixed with sludge, cargo residue and other debris. In the EU states it can be a herculean task, of which the owners of MSC Flaminia had a first hand experience following a massive cargo fire. They then sued the German authorities for misinterpreting the regulations and delaying the sailing of vessel to repair yard by 7 months. This week, the ECJ gave its decision on an important point – part victory for owners!

Background: Vessel was given refuge in Germany but then the authorities imposed an obligation on owners to comply a detailed notification procedure under EC reg. 1013/2006 and waste directive. This took 7 mths to complete. Owners insisted they were exempted under Art.1.3(b).

German courts passed on the point of contention to ECJ, which said that exception cannot be construed in a manner that deprives it of its intended effect. It did apply to such waste. Owner of a vsl involved in a casualty, cannot be expected to provide information on composition and identification of the waste and the type of disposal or recovery operation envisaged.

Whether or not owners are successful in their claim for losses – remains to be seen!

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