The Marpol 73/78 Convention states that ports must provide reception facilities for all operational waste, at reasonable cost, to dissuade ships from disposing of their waste at sea.
In addition, a European directive dated 27 November 2000 makes it mandatory for all captains of ships calling at European Community ports to dispose of their waste at the facilities provided, for which they must pay a fee. The vessels exempt from this obligation are warships or ships operated by the State for purely governmental purposes and ships with a sufficient storage capacity to hold the waste which will be accumulated during the journey to the next port of call. The directive specifies that “Member States shall ensure the availability of port reception facilities adequate to meet the needs of the ships normally using the port” i.e. “capable of receiving the types and quantities of ship-generated waste and cargo residues from ships normally using that port”. Each port must therefore set up and implement a plan for the reception and treatment of operational waste for ships calling at that port.
The French ports of national importance all provide this service. However a senatorial inquiry after the Erika oil spill showed that the ports of regional importance did not all have ballast water and slop reception facilities. An inspection report on the reception facilities of French ports, published in 2001 (Lévy report), proposed solutions to fulfil the demands of the directive, either by direct management by ports, or by delegating to existing services of accredited companies.
The European directive of November 2000 also states that ships may be subject to inspections in order to verify compliance with the directive. Each member State is responsible for laying down a system of penalties for the breach of provisions. France integrated this directive into national law in September 2003 and made provision for fines of 1,000 to 40,000 Euros, with the possibility for port officers of prohibiting a vessel from leaving the port if the shipowner has not deposited the ship's waste.