Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ferry Company Respond To Court Verdict On Their Breach Of EU Directive

European and British Law not Compatible on Issue of Super Ferries
Shipping News Feature

UK – Tuesdays verdict in the High Court that Wightlink, the passenger and freight RoRo ferry operators had acted unlawfully with their introduction of Class W vessels on their Lymington to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight route was met with delight by the Lymington River Association (LRA)who brought the prosecution.

Now the ferry operators have issued their own statement which acknowledges they were wrong to introduce the larger class ferries but have reiterated that the breach of the EU Habitats Directive, designed to protect existing wildlife sites, was unintentional and that they are legally bound to act upon the recommendations of the Natural England enquiry into the situation. The company point out that the judgment acknowledges Natural England’s view that the new ferries introduced by Wightlink have not caused any damage to the protected habitats in the Lymington River to date, and that appropriate mitigation measures can ensure that no such damage will occur in the long term.

The Court accepted that Wightlink was the appropriate competent authority to decide whether or not the new ferries should be introduced on the Lymington to Yarmouth route, and furthermore found that Wightlink had consulted correctly in advance of making its decision to introduce the new ferries. The company goes on to say none of their services will be affected by the ruling.

For their part the LRA say they brought the High Court action against DEFRA and Wightlink reluctantly, having tried for almost two years to persuade the regulators and Wightlink to carry out a proper scientific assessment of the likely impact of more than 22,000 annual ferry crossings with the W Class, before replacing the old vessels with these much larger ships. The Court ruling in full can be seen on the LRA site.

As this High Court judgment makes clear, the responsible government agencies had failed to put in place laws to protect marine environments - despite their obligations to do so under European law. This left government agencies powerless to intervene when Wightlink unilaterally decided, in the face of advice from Natural England and the Lymington Harbour Commission, to introduce the much larger W Class before completing proper evaluation of their likely impacts on the environment and on other river users.

Photo: Courtesy of Wightlink