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Pollution controls and inspection

Three areas of pollution on vessels are controlled and inspected by us - these cover dusty materials, smoke and nuisance noise.

Dusty bulk cargoes - when we inspect

The handling of dusty bulk cargoes is generally controlled by us under the nuisance provisions of Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which also implements the EC Directives on Air Pollution Control. 

We have a statutory duty to inspect the area within their jurisdiction from time to time to detect whether a nuisance exists or is likely to recur. They must also investigate complaints of statutory nuisance. If satisfied that such a nuisance exists they must serve an abatement notice on the person responsible or the owner or occupier of the premises.

Much of the bulk material imported through the UK’s ports fall within the category of dusty cargoes. Examples of those that are prescribed include coal, petroleum coke, cement and fishmeal.

Smoke from vessels - what the law says

The Clean Air Act 1993 makes it an offence to emit dark smoke unless specifically permitted by regulations. 

The Act can be applied against the owner, the master or other officer in charge of a vessel. The Act covers waters navigable by seagoing ships which lie within the seaward limits of the territorial. 

The Dark Smoke (Permitted Periods) (Vessels) Regulations 1958 permit dark smoke to be emitted for limited periods.

This legislation includes the defence of lighting up from cold when all practicable steps have been taken to prevent or minimise the emission of dark smoke or the failure of a furnace or its associated apparatus, where the failure could not reasonably have been foreseen and also the unavoidable use of unsuitable fuel.

How we handle complaints about noise from vessels

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990) is the legislation specifically aimed at preventing a noise nuisance. This refers to noise as a statutory nuisance where in the opinion of an Environmental Health Officer or Port Health Inspector, it is considered to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

However, it should be noted that Port Health Authorities constituted under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 have enforcement responsibility under the nuisance provisions of Part III of the EPA 1990, other than in respect of noise nuisance.

Complaints related to ship operations or port areas will normally be the subject of a joint approach by us and the local authority and the PHA, with legal enforcement being undertaken by the local authority. Action can also be initiated by an individual under this legislation.