Cost effects of maritime environmental legislation: a mixed methods study of regulatory compliance

Thea Freese*, Michael Gille*, John Struthers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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The maritime shipping industry is an interesting subject for legislative impact studies. It is particularly well placed to avoid legislation due to its international nature, relocatable assets, and challenging enforcement of rules. Increased political measures to protect the marine environment meet an industry characterized by a decade of strained financial resources, excess supply of capacity and consolidation. Non-compliance with environmental rules is one path companies might take to stay competitive within their industry and vis-à-vis other transport modes. Around 5-15% of industry participants are believed by shipping experts to neglect rules on vessel-source pollution intentionally or unintentionally. The objective of this study is to identify and quantify cost effects of maritime environmental legislation, relate these with company characteristics like company size, average vessel age, or area of operations, and to investigate the impact of regulatory compliance.
A mixed methods design was employed to develop both a theoretical model of compliance costs effects and to quantify the effect sizes of determinants identified. In a first step, twelve in-depths exploratory expert interviews were conducted with key stakeholders within the shipping industry and analyzed by way of qualitative content analysis. A theoretical framework emerged that was evaluated, strengthened and fed with quantitative data from questionnaire data from 120 shipping companies active in the North and Baltic Sea area. Partial least squares analysis was conducted to determine compliance cost effects for different types of shipping companies. It was found that solely organizational capacities played a significant role in determining compliance behaviour, while individual motivations, exterior determinants and company characteristics like size and vessel age showed no significant effect on compliance.
European transport policy making depends on scientifically sound studies on the impact of policy on different transport sectors. An in-depth impact assessment on environmental legislation for the maritime industry, with the specific focus on company characteristics, does not only provide insights into this specific industry, but highlights mechanisms applicable to environmental policy making in other transport sectors and helps in building a transport policy that takes into account compliance issues, company characteristics and the interconnectedness of different transport modes - for a sound response to the tragedy of the commons.

Keywords—regulatory compliance, compliance costs, marine environmental protection, mixed methods research, clean vessel operations, North and Baltic Sea area.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2018
EventSpecial Interest Group 2 ( Ports and Maritime): World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS) - Dept of Transport and Regional Economics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
Duration: 2 May 20184 May 2018


ConferenceSpecial Interest Group 2 ( Ports and Maritime): World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS)


  • regulatory compliance
  • compliance costs
  • marine environmental protection
  • mixed methods research
  • clean vessel operations
  • North and Baltic Sea area


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