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Ten years ago, the maritime press published the scandal about toxic waste of the Probo Koala. Things have evolved since that incident.

The incident

In 2007, the tanker Probo Koala left the port of Amsterdam, after re-loading the waste which it originally discharged to a port reception facility. However, the shipping line judged the price charged for the treatment unreasonable high and took the waste back on board. Dutch authorities contested this deed and considered the case as illegal export of toxic waste, regulated by the Basel Convention rules. The ship headed for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, delivered the toxic waste to a recent established company called “Compagnie Tommy”, which dumped the liquid waste at several places around Abidjan. The gas coming out of the waste caused the death of 17 people and many more injured, according to local medical reports.

Since the time of the incident, Trafigura, the raw material trader that used the Probo Koala, has paid 130 million EUR to the Ivory Coast government. After a claim of several victims, the case was brought before the High Court in the UK in 2009 and Trafigura paid another 30 million GBP to about 31,000 victims.

Improving regulations and control

The case resulted in clarifying the rules applicable under the MARPOL Convention and the Basel Convention.  European regulation is set in the WSR (Waste Shipment Regulation) and the directive on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues. Rules on a worldwide scale are the Basel Convention and the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Screening of these regulations consisted of the alignment of rules looking at the difference in terminology and definitions to avoid regulatory gaps and making them simple and clear leading to better enforcement.

Improving controls  and enforcement in order to limit illegal discharges, environmental pollution and  possible health risks should come from better information exchange, a risk analysis and collaboration between controlling instances that look upon the discharger (phase 1), the collector (phase 2) and the processor (phase 3).