69 environmental infringements in two weeks
Why are so many superyachts ignoring the law when it comes to not anchoring in protected seagrass areas in France?
Various associations representing the yachting industry were received by Mr Laurent Lisnard, vice admiral and Préfet Maritime of the Mediterranean on 15 July to discuss the problems related to anchorages in France and the actions that should be implemented to provide solutions. The major question, however, is why are so many superyachts ignoring the law when it comes to not anchoring in protected seagrass areas?
The Préfet Maritime has sent the various associations a list of offences recorded between 6 and 20 July. Among the vessels that violated the anchorage regulations, 58 vessels were in violation only once, with 11 vessels infringing on a series of occasions. This situation is alarming and shows that in less than two weeks an abnormally large number of infractions have taken place in French waters. There is a real risk that these infractions, if they persist, will be transformed into a report with a fine, which would obviously be negative for the yachting industry in France.
According To Thierry Voisin, who was present at the discussions in his capacity as president of ECPY, the maximum fine for repeated infringements for anchoring in the protected seagrass areas could be up to €150,000. While he stresses this is an extremely unlikely outcome, it nonetheless highlights the perceived severity of these infringements.
While large fines are not an ideal outcome, one must also consider the negative impact continued environmental infringements will have on the perception of the superyacht industry globally. Within an industry that is increasingly under the media lens for all manner of issues, both warranted and unwarranted, continuous environmental infractions in clear contravention off well publicised and well understood laws will, without doubt, be picked up on and used as yet another stick to bash the superyacht industry with. In this case, the criticism would be entirely just if owners, captains, managers and various other stakeholders do not start abiding by the law.
Voisin outlines that he believes that the protection of the seagrass and, therefore, the anchoring restrictions, is the right thing to do from an environmental perspective. While the restrictions may be from the right perspective, Voisin does consider the precise implementation of the laws to be suboptimal. Indeed he and a number of associations are currently engaged in discussions to make amendments to the current laws in time for the 2022 Mediterranean season. However, Voisin believes that repeated infringements will only damage the yachting industry’s ability to lobby for amendments to the current laws.
“The law is the law, whether you like it or not,” says Voisin. “It may be that some people simply don’t care about the seagrass or the law, but there are also other concerns. The Premar informed us that the vessels in question were not responding to VHF calls, when having a member of crew available to respond to VHF calls is statutory and mandatory. Ok, some of these vessels were around 24m, but many of them were 40-80m, this simply should not be happening.”
That the crews associated with the infringing superyachts were not able or unwilling to respond to the VHF calls is a concern. Voisin explains that many of the vessels were anchored right on the limit of the protected zones, obviously trying to get as close as possible without breaking any laws, or otherwise thinking the infringement would be so marginal as to not raise eyebrows. Had these superyachts moved just 50m or so, they would have been perfectly within their rights to anchor.
The superyacht market must respect the laws. During a season that has seen more superyachts at anchor than ever before, infringements on the part of many yachts will be incredibly obvious, 58 infringements in two weeks is a shockingly high statistic and highlights that the industry is quite rightly being watched. Continued infringement will not only result in fines, but it will also damage the brand equity of the whole market.
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