EMAS in harbours: a plus in quality



María del Mar Rubio Sánchez, EMAS Helpdesk of the European Commission, c/o Federal Environment Agency, Vienna, Austria


Ports, important industrial centres

Over the last few decades, international trade transport among EU member states and non-EU countr ies has increased considerably, converting harbours into important industrial centres. Port activities have thus, directly or indirectly, become a focus generator of much negative environmental impact. Furthermore, the number of leisure ports and their associated activities has also increased, causing an escalation in the number of boats along the coast at weekends and during summer time.

As a result, coastal ecosystems are exposed to pressure from sea and leisure port activities, often in conjunction with the needs of the local population.  Consequently, the environmental impact on these vulnerable areas could increase drastically, leading to a multiple impact on the coast and beaches and affecting the quality of bathing water.

The main environmental problems related to port activities are: low level of recycling of waste, problems with the water quality due to maintenance of the ships and waste water, poor use of energy and resources and high environmental impact from accidents. Port management involves negotiating with a great variety of key players: port and maritime authorities, customs, health and safety inspectorate, transport and storage companies, shipping lines etc. In this context, the  implementation of an Environmental Management System under the EMAS Regulation can help to reduce and minimise these negative impacts and to organise a
coherent and integrated environmental management system.

What is EMAS?

The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a management tool for companies and other organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. The scheme has been available for participation by companies since 1995 (Council Regulation (EEC) No 1836/93 of 29 June 1993)
and was originally restricted to companies in industrial sectors.

Since 2001 EMAS has been open to all economic sectors including public and private services (Regulation (EC) No 761/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe 19th March 2001). In addition, EMAS was strengthened by the integration of EN/ISO 14001 as the environmental management system required by EMAS, by adopting an attractive EMAS logo to signal EMAS registration to the outside world, and by considering more strongly the indirect effects such as those related to financial services or administrative and planning decisions. Participation is voluntary and extends to public or private organisations operating in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. An increasing number of candidate countries are also implementing the scheme in preparation for their accession to the EU.


To achieve these targets, the European Commission through LIFE, the EU’s financial instrument which supports environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, has been directly and indirectly supporting the implementation of environmental management instruments such as the European Environmental
Management Scheme known as EMAS.

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