It has been almost one year since the Italian port reform came into force [1] and it seems appropriate to make a few considerations on port accident prevention and security, especially in light of the implementation, in Italy, of the EU Seveso III Directive on control of major-accident hazards [2].

It should first be noted that there appears to be a mismatch between the EU Directive and Italian law. Reference is made in particular to the apparent conflict between the EU environmental legislation and Italian port legislation. In light of the latest reform, it would indeed seem that the former, contrary to the latter, does no longer require port administrations to prepare a safety report on port areas.

It is, however, not the first time that such a misalignment between EU and Italian legislation occurs (suffice it to think of anchorage dues)[3]. In any event, to be concise, we will just limit ourselves to making a few considerations here.

Legislative Decree No. 105/2015, implementing the Seveso III EU Directive[4], repealed Ministerial Decree No. 293 of 16 May 2001, which required Port Authorities (now Port System Authorities) to draw up, and subsequently update, the Integrated Port Security Report on the risk of industrial accidents with reference to all hazardous activies carried out in Italian ports.

Therefore, according to many experts, the circumstance for which said Decree has abolished the Port System Authority’s obligation to prepare the safety report has given rise to a gap in law, circumstance that may adversely impact the management of any accidents that may occur in port areas involving one or more “Seveso” establishments[5] or, in any event, hazardous substances present in port areas.

The reason for such a “regulatory vacuum” can be seen in the fact that the new provisions on risk identification – especially concerning ports – do not seem to be reflected in the Italian port law, even after the 2016 reform.

Indeed, Article 5, paragraph 5, of Law no. 84/94 still applies, providing that The Port Master Plan of the ports referred to in paragraphs 1 and 1-bis shall include, as an attachment, a report on the safety of the port area in relation to the risks of major accidents associated with certain industrial activities.

In essence, so-called “ports of international interest” would still seem to be under the obligation to prepare the Port Safety Report, to be enclosed in the Port Master Plan once approved by the Management Committee of the Port System Authority, while the adoption of On-Site Emergency Plans or Off-Site Emergency Plans[6] is no longer required.

In light of the numerous criticisms brought forward by experts and port operators regarding the general worsening of the legislation on major-accident risk management, some specific sector studies have been carried out to remedy any gap in the law.

The most important of such studies would seem the one prepared by ARPA (i.e. the Regional Environmental Protection Agency) in cooperation with the Italian National Fire Corps, which suggests several guidelines for approving Port Emergency Plans which – having also regard to other planning tools for port areas – may be deemed valid and effective, irrespective of the presence or not of “Seveso establishments” in Italian ports and, therefore, be included in the Safety Report to be subsequently enclosed to the Port Master Plan (called “Port System Master Plan” after the reform)[7].

Well, although nearly a year has passed since the port law reform came into force, a number of issues are still uncertain, including in respect of port accident-prevention and safety. Current Legislative Decree No. 105/2015 seems to have changed in pejus the previous statutory rules by limiting, as a matter of fact, both accident-prevention instruments and emergency-planning instruments.

In light of the above considerations and of the technical proposals aimed at overcoming gaps, there is nothing we can do but wait for a concrete response from the competent Port System Authorities, which however, for now, is not likely to come soon.