Posts Tagged Rotterdam
The CJEU’s finding in Shell, was applied by the Court of first instance at Antwerp in a judgment from October last, which has just reached me. (I have not yet found it in relevant databases (not uncommon for Belgian case-law), but I do have a copy for those interested). The case concerned debunkered off-spec fuel, off the ship Else Maria Theresa (her engines apparently having been affected by the oil being off-spec), blended into /with a much larger amount of bunker oil.
The court applied the Shell /Carens criteria, leading to a finding of waste. In brief, the blending in the case at issue was not, the court held, standing practice in the bunkering /debunkering business, and /or a commercially driven, readily available preparation of off-spec for purchase by eager buyers. Rather, a quick-fix solution to get rid off unwanted fuel.
The judgment (which is being appealed I imagine) emphasises the case-by-case approach needed for the determination of ‘waste’. It relies heavily on (the absence of) evidence on market consultation and signals from interested buyers for the off-spec fuel.
Update 11 January 2016: Shell inform me that the DA (‘parket’ /Openbaar Ministerie) has appealed.
I have reported some time ago on the reverse logistics case involving Shell and Carens. As noted in that post, the CJEU instructed the court at Rotterdam to gauge the ‘true intentions’ of Shell vis-a-vis the contaminated fuel which it had taken back from one of its clients (Carens).
The Court at Rotterdam issued its final judgment on 23 December last, truly a christmas present for the companies involved for the accusations of illegal waste shipments were rejected. (I could not locate the judgment on ECLI yet: I have a copy for those interested).
The court first of all rejected a rather neat attempt of the Dutch prosecutor to get around the CJEU’s finding in para 46 of its judgment : ‘it is particularly important that the Belgian client returned the contaminated ULSD to Shell, with a view to obtaining a refund, pursuant to the sale contract. By so acting, that client cannot be regarded as having intended to dispose of or recover the consignment at issue and, accordingly, it did not ‘discard’ it within the meaning of Article 1(1)(a) of Directive 2006/12.‘ It was suggested that incoterm FOB (‘Free on Board’), applicable to the agreement between Carens and Shell, meant that the qualification of the payment by Shell could not have been a refund for defective goods (ownership of the goods already having been transferred prior to contamination) but rather the payment of damages for a contract not properly carried out. This, it was argued, made para 46 irrelevant for the facts of the case. The court at Rotterdam essentially argued that par 46 needs to be applied beyond the black letter of the law: in effect, in acting as they did and following their running contractual relationships, Shell and Carens had decided to annul the sale, sale price was refunded, and Carens could therefore not be seen as owner or holder of the goods.
Neither, the court held, could Shell be considered a discarding the fuel: the court paid specific attention to testimony that the fuel concerned was actually presented to market, with a view to establishing what price it could fetch. Offers were made which were not far off the initial sale price. Re-blending of the fuel was only done to obtain a higher price and was carried out in accordance with established market practices. Shell’s resale of the fuel, as holder of it, was not just a mere possibility but a certainty (language reminiscent of what the CJEU normally employs for the distinction recovery /disposal).
Final conclusion: the fuel at no stage qualified as waste and no one could have discarded it.
A very important judgment indeed – it will be interesting to see whether the prosecutor’s office will appeal.
It is being reported (this link in Dutch only however I suspect the international media will pick up on this soon) this morning that the city of Rotterdam has ‘banned’ the use of Roundup (Monsanto’s flagship herbicide). I was not able at this stage to get confirmation of what has actually been decided. My intuition however tells me what was had happened is not so much a ‘ban’ on the use of Round-up on Rotterdam territory. Rather, I imagine, a decision of the local council no longer to use Roundup in keeping pavements weed-free. A procurement or garden management decision, in other words.
The news caught my eye for I have an interest in the legality of local (or other) bans on the use of products which have otherwise been approved by EU (such as in this case: EU approval of glyphosate) or national authorities. See e.g. here (but with a need to update with the Mickelsson judgment). A true ban on Roundup would certainly raise the prospect of WTO and EU litigation…
There’s only that much delay the ECJ will tolerate – Rotterdam court has to start from scratch in EBS, no clarification on waste shipments
The Court’s order in EBS, Case C-240/12 (available in French and Dutch only), has only now come to my attention (thanks to Raluca Rada) – and for the wrong reasons. This is a preliminary review by the Court at Rotterdam, concerning the application of the waste shipments Regulation.
The case at hand refers to a transport of unsorted used clothes from France to the United Arab Emirates via the Port of Rotterdam, seized by the Dutch authorities due to alleged failure to comply with the notification requirements under the waste shipment Regulation for waste transit. The defendant in the criminal proceedings essentially argued that the Dutch authorities interpret the concept of ‘transit’ in too wide a manner. Since these are criminal proceedings, there is additional tension on the notion of transit in old v new waste shipments Regulation – under criminal law, the provision with the most advantageous consequences for the defendant needs to be applied, even if it was not applicable at the time of the alleged infringement (retroactive application of the milder criminal law; thank you to Gaelle Marlier for confirming that).
The ECJ forewarned the national court that not enough information on the facts had been given for it to review. Time was given for the national court to provide additional data – the oral hearing was postponed to accommodate the national court’s delay in answering. Subsequently, the national court wanted to hear the parties on the additional facts to be given to the court: such hearing could not be scheduled for some time in view of the workload of the national court. The ECJ was then requested to try and answer the question anyway, on the basis of the facts that had been given in the request, supplemented with the few extra nuggets that had been provided informally. Not surprisingly therefore, the Court in the end declined full stop.
I am not sure what this means for the procedure: presumably, the question may be asked again, this time with the right amount of data? To my knowledge these kinds of orders do not occur all that frequently, pity it should do in this case, for I was rather looking forward to hearing the outcome.
Where waste is shipped by vessel from an EU Member State (in this case France) to a State in which the OECD-Decision does not apply (in this case the United Arab Emirates), is there ‘transit’ within the meaning of the former 2 and the new Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) if under way the vessel puts in at a port of another EU Member State (in this case the Port of Rotterdam)?
Does it make any difference to the answer to question 1 if:
there is storage and/or transhipment of that waste at that port and/or
that waste is taken ashore and/or
that waste is declared for import at customs?
JÄÄSKINEN AG in Shell: Re-blended fuel was discarded. Waste status of off-spec and reverse logistics products remains uncertain.
I have reported earlier on the importance of the judicial review in Shell. JÄÄSKINEN AG this morning opined that A consignment consisting of fuel which the vendor takes back and processes through blending with a view to placing it back on the market, because the fuel had been unintentionally mixed with a substance and therefore no longer satisfies safety requirements so that it could not be stored by the buyer pursuant to an environmental permit, must be considered as waste
The Advocate-General’s Opinion was very much focused on the factual aspects of the case. Disappointingly, he did not much entertain many of the criteria suggested by the court at Rotterdam – for reasons of judicial economy, one imagines. However Advocate Generals do often get carried away on the analysis. A pitty that did not happen here. Core to the AG’s Opinion is his finding (at 25) that
re-blending of the fuel before its resale, in my opinion, points towards an intention to discard it, and the act of re-blending itself amounts to recovery;
With respect to the contractual context, the AG notes (at 26) that the fact that the contaminated fuel was ‘off-spec’ in relation to the specifications appearing in the contract between Shell and Carens is irrelevant to determining whether it amounts to waste under mandatory EU waste law, the latter being of a public law nature and not subject to the will of the parties to a contract.
While I am of the view that the contract cannot singlehandedly determine the qualification or not as waste, its (seemingly at least) outright dismissal by the AG as a factor to consider (at least in this para), is disappointing. It is not, I submit, in line with the WFD. Neither arguably is the link which the AG makes at 14 (and in his final Opinion) between an environmental permit, and the qualification of the substance as waste. Ad absurdum: a stolen tanker full of diesel is left for re-sale in a rented garage. The garage has not been given a permit for storage of diesel. Yet the diesel has not turned into waste.
With respect to the overall debate on reverse logistics, there is an interesting section in the Opinion at 37: ‘a consignment consisting of ULSD mixed unintentionally with MTBE and having as a result a flame point lower than allowed for diesel sold from the pump becomes waste within the meaning of Article 1(1)(a) of Directive 2006/12 at the point of contamination, and remains as such up to its recovery by blending or by its commercial re-classification in a manner that is objectively ascertainable.‘[emphasis added by me]. This latter part does open room for products re-sent across the logistics chain not to be considered waste, however there needs to be some kind of ‘objectively ascertainable’ re-classification: this requires some thinking in terms of compliance.
The AG makes the following comparison at 40:
I would like to close by emphasising that mere failure to fulfil agreed contractual specifications does not, as such, mean that a substance or product is necessarily to be considered as waste. If a trader delivers to a restaurant minced meat that is a mixture of beef and horse, instead of pure beef as agreed between the parties, he may be contractually obliged to accept return of the delivery without it thereby becoming waste. However, if the product results from accidental contamination of beef with horse meat during the processing of minced meat, he has an obligation to discard the minced meat up and until its precise characteristics have been ascertained and the minced meat is either disposed of or commercially reclassified, for example, as feed for minks, or as a beef-horse meat mixture for human consumption, provided it satisfies the relevant requirements under food-stuffs regulations. More generally, a non-intentionally manufactured mixture of compound is prima facie waste if the use to which it is intended to be put is not safe, in the absence of knowledge of its composition. This applies to products such as food or fuel whose qualities are important to human health and the environment.
In this section, therefore, the contractual context between parties to a transaction, does seem to enter the train of thought when deciding on the waste status of an off-spec or reverse logistics product.
The ink on the Opinion is literally still drying and undoubtedly there are more angles to it than I report above. However I for one should like the ECJ to state something more unequivocal on the impact of the contractual context, when it delivers its judgment presumably in the autumn.