Studying determinants of compliance with maritime environmental legislation in the North and Baltic Sea Area: a model developed from exploratory qualitative data

Thea Freese, John Struthers, Andrew Hursthouse, Michael Gille

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Environmental legislation to protect North and Baltic Sea areas from harmful vessel source emissions has received increased political attention in recent years. With the aim of fostering cleaner ship operations stricter legislation has been passed on the national and international level. Rules on sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions, the introduction of invasive alien species through ballast water and other sources of pollution is currently being phased in or will come into force in the coming years. Legislative measures are expected to show positive effects on the health of the marine environment and society. Compliance will however increase the costs to industry to a significant extent. In times of access supply of shipping capacity and dependant consolidation in the industry non-compliance with environmental rules is one way companies might try to stay competitive within their industry and vis--vis other transport modes. Around 5-15% of industry participants are believed to neglect rules on vessel-source pollution willingly or unwillingly. In this study, exploratory in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 experts from various stakeholder groups, including ship owners and operators, environmental organizations, legislative bodies, classification societies, trade associations and shipping personnel. The researchers aim was to collect information on variables influencing compliance rates, including awareness and apprehension, willingness to comply, ability to comply and effectiveness of controls. Semi-structured expert interviews were evaluated using qualitative content analysis. In result a model characterizing determinants of compliance was
developed to be presented in this paper.
The large majority of vessel operators endeavour to achieve full compliance with environmental rules, but still some obstacles can be observed. A lack of availability of technical solutions may prove as much an unwilling hindrance to compliance as the feasibility of implementation and operation of systems or connected economic expediency of options. Next to unwilling non-compliance, ineffective systems of control are not persuasively discouraging willing non-compliance. While most ship operators are motivated to comply either by believing it is the right thing to do, or, more often, by believing they have no other option, motivations for non-compliance are also common. In the light of lacking time, financials or the absence of commercial advantages overall compliance levels tend to decrease. These and other variables were inductively developed from qualitative data and integrated into a model on environmental compliance. Results presented form part of a more comprehensive research project on economic effects of environmental legislation for the shipping industry. Insights on mechanisms of compliance might inform policy-makers about actual behavioural effects of environmental legislation and might further the development of a comprehensive legal system for environmental protection.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2017
Event7th Conference on Logistics and Maritime Systems - Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway
Duration: 23 Aug 201726 Aug 2017 (Conference website)


Conference7th Conference on Logistics and Maritime Systems
Abbreviated titleLOGMS 2017
Internet address


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