Toxic Trade News / 28 September 2006
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Toxic ship case "could prompt EU rule change"
by ENDS Europe DAILY
28 September 2006 – A waste dumping incident that has killed several people in Ivory Coast could lead to changes in EU waste shipment rules and criminal sanctions for environmental crimes, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said today.

A ship chartered by Dutch oil-trading firm Trafigura has been detained by Estonian authorities in the port of Paldiski. The Probo Koala has been the target of a Greenpeace campaign over the last month after waste from the ship was illegally dumped in the African country, sparking a public health crisis. Tests have found similar substances in water around the ship at harbour in Estonia.

Mr Dimas flew to Estonia today to "find out for myself what happened and to take appropriate action". An initial investigation has found evidence of systematic flouting of EU waste shipment laws on a "huge" scale, his spokeswoman told ENDS on Thursday.

The commissioner said he would now "seek ways and means to reinforce the existing waste shipment regulation and its implementation by the Member States." A new version of the regulation will enter force next year following a lengthy revision process that ended earlier this year. The commission will first see how member states implement it and then "propose further changes if necessary".

"I also plan to put forward a proposal to criminalise certain environmentally damaging practices such as the one perpetrated," Mr Dimas said. This could result in the retabling of a commission proposal for minimum EU standards for punishing environmental crimes. Last year the commission won a court case against EU member states over its right to make proposals in the field (EED 13/09/06 "If there is a case that shows it's necessary, this is it," Mr Dimas's spokeswoman said.

"This will spark a full international inquiry into all of the companies and regulatory agencies which failed to stop the dumping of deadly toxic waste in the Ivory Coast," Greenpeace said. "Only through such an investigation can the guilty be brought to justice and the lessons learned in order to prevent this from happening again."

Trafigura said it "does not accept that it has acted improperly in any way" and that it was "still unclear exactly what caused the tragedy" in Ivory coast.

Follow-up: See European commission press release
and speech,
plus Greenpeace press release
and Trafigura statement

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