The Law on Spills in Mexican Maritime Zones will come into force on July 16 2014 – 180 days after its publication in the Federal Official Gazette. The law seeks to control and prevent pollution or alteration of the sea caused by spillages deposited in Mexican maritime zones, according to the zones governed under the Federal Sea Law.
The law further identifies certain events and conduct that will be regarded as 'spills or dumping'. These will either be authorised or penalised under the law, as the case may be.
Specifically, the law will determine the events that will be regarded as spills or dumping in relation to ships (vessels), aircraft, platforms and other constructions or buildings. The following events will be penalised if they are carried out without a permit issued by the Maritime Ministry (which is also authorised to apply and interpret the Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972):
- the discharge, disposal, release or introduction into Mexican maritime zones – whether deliberate or accidental – of waste or other materials, including alien ballast water from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other structures;
- the storage of waste or other materials on the seabed or subsoil thereof from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other structures;
- the discharge of any organic material in order to attract biological species that are not intended to be fished;
- the placement of materials or objects of any kind in order to create artificial reefs, docks, jetties, breakwaters or other structures;
- the deliberate sinking or abandonment of vessels, aircraft, platforms or other structures (as well as those derived therefrom) for the sole purpose of deliberate disposal thereof; and
- the re-suspension of sediment – consisting of the return of deposited sediment into a state of suspension in the water body – by any method or procedure that results in sedimentation.
The law also states that in order to be granted a spill or dumping permit, the applicant must provide certain information, including:
- an environmental impact authorisation;
- a discharge spill programme;
- the results of laboratory analysis; and
- a characterisation of the material or waste subject to disposal and discharge (eg, toxicity, physical, chemical and biological structures).
While permits will partly be granted based on a feasibility analysis, it must be proved that the spill or dumping is the best alternative available for disposal of the particular material or waste. The applicant must have evidence that it has exhausted the following options for the integral management of the waste:
- recycling outside of Mexican maritime zones;
- destruction of hazardous components;
- treatment for reducing or removing hazardous components; and
- land, atmospheric or sea evacuation, among other alternatives.
Permits will be issued for a specific term with no possibility of extension, except in the case of force majeure or a technical or financial situation. In order to obtain an extension, the relevant party must prove that such an event has taken place.
Permit holders are not authorised to transfer permits or allow their use by third parties. In addition, holders must fulfil certain obligations. Moreover, they must suspend dumping activities in the event of weather that could cause environmental damage due to its intensity or magnitude, or whenever spills or dumping could affect ecosystems or cause environmental damage.
The penalties provided under the Maritime Spills Law are:
- suspension of the permit from one to 60 days;
- cancellation of the permit; and
- fines that range from $1,295 to $258,807, which will be determined according to the infringement and damaged caused.
Finally, spills or dumping performed in violation of applicable laws – including the Maritime Spills Law – and the terms and conditions of relevant permits attract the obligation to repair the environmental damage in terms of the Federal Environmental Liability Law, without prejudice to any administrative, criminal or civil liabilities that apply.
If spills have been caused due to force majeure events, administrative liability will not be triggered; however, the responsible party will still be obliged to repair, compensate or restore damages caused by the spill.
For further information on this topic please contact Juan Francisco Torres Landa, Jorge Yanez, Brenda Rogel Salgado or Jeanett Trad at Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa SC by telephone (+52 55 5091 0157), fax (+52 55 5091 0123) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa website can be accessed at www.bstl.com.mx.