Objectives and scope of these guidelines

The objectives of these guidelines are:

  • to identify and agree the operations and circumstances where the impact on conservation features is minimal or beneficial,
  • to identify and agree the operations and circumstances where potential for adverse effect does exist, and
  • to identify existing guidance and procedures which can be used to exercise appropriate controls for avoiding, minimising or addressing these impacts.

The target audiences for the guidelines are:

  • relevant authorities - to inform in the development and implementation of management schemes in European marine sites and to assist them in meeting their statutory obligations,
  • port and harbour authorities, operators, users, and related industries - to provide guidance on how to minimise and avoid adverse impacts on European marine sites and to promote good environmental practice,
  • country conservation agencies - to improve understanding of the operations and environmental management undertaken in ports and harbours, and
  • European practitioners - to act as a guide for those involved in implementing the Habitats Directive throughout Europe and to provide an example of how the development and implementation of management schemes can be facilitated.

The guidelines draw on the best available scientific and technical information together with the wealth of practical experience and specialist knowledge of those involved in managing the marine environment. The scope of the guidelines has been developed in conjunction with representatives of ports and harbours, maritime industry, country conservation agencies and key interest groups who contributed towards two workshops held in Southampton, October 1997 and York, December 1998.

The guidelines focus principally on the management of marine SACs, however they are equally applicable to those involved in managing marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) classified under the EC Birds Directive and for ports and harbours operating in or near marine SPAs. Generic guidance has been provided for SPAs and consideration has been made of the potential impacts of port and harbour operations on the intertidal habitats that support bird populations. In ports and harbours similar management issues arise in both marine SACs and marine SPAs, which are collectively known as European marine sites. Although, because of the remit of the project, the good practice guidelines refer specifically to marine SACs, in many cases the use of the term ‘marine SAC’ is interchangeable with ‘European marine site’.

A running theme throughout the guidelines is the general duty of ports and harbours to care for the environment. Ports have a statutory duty under the Transport and Works Act 1992 to balance nature conservation with their other operations and under the Habitats Regulations 3(4) to operate their functions with regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive.

The guidelines focus closely on port and harbour activities that will be managed under the management scheme, which include:

  • shipping and boating operations,
  • cargo handling,
  • port and harbour maintenance,
  • maintenance dredging and disposal, and
  • the management of ship and boat generated wastes.

The management scheme may also provide guidance for the assessment of plans and projects, particularly those of a minor or repetitive nature, which are defined as "any operations which require an application to made for specific statutory consent, authorisation, licence or other permission". The guidelines do not attempt to provide detailed guidance on plans and projects, with the exception of those likely to be managed within the management scheme, such as maintenance dredging and disposal, and small repetitive developmental activities required to maintain harbour and marina structures.

The guidelines only briefly discuss certain issues relating to recreational harbour operations which will be covered comprehensively by Recreational user interactions: Framework for reviewing and managing potential recreational impacts, another report from the UK Marine SACs Project.

Structure of these guidelines

For the purpose of the guidelines, port and harbour operations have been divided into four broad groups, which are discussed in the following sections:

Commercial operations

Recreational operations and maintenance activities

Maintenance dredging

Waste management and pollution

Each of the four groups of operations will be discussed as follows:

  • A description is made of the type, range and extent of operations undertaken in ports and harbours in or near marine SACs.
  • A brief outline is provided of the main existing regulations, international and national, influencing port and harbour operations.
  • The range of potential environmental impacts on designated marine features that may arise as a result of these operations are discussed, based on the findings of a review of available literature, practical experience and specialist knowledge. Wherever possible, the discussion details the physical, biological and human variables that influence whether an impact is likely to occur at a specific site, or not, and whether the identified effect is likely to be beneficial, minimal or adverse or cover a range of these magnitudes.
  • Suggestions are then made for means of avoiding, minimising and addressing the potential impacts described before. These suggested actions include management practices that are already undertaken by ports and harbours to safeguard the environment as part of everyday operations and also in some cases new, or an expansion of existing, management practices.
  • A table is provided near the end of each section to review the key points made, providing a summary of:
  • the key process or factor resulting from the port and harbour operation (such as physical damage, smothering or toxic contamination),
  • the potential impacts that may occur as a result of port and harbour operations,
  • the variables that should be considered when determining whether an impact is likely to occur,
  • the likely magnitude of the impact (beneficial, minimal or adverse or a range of these magnitudes), and
  • suggested means for addressing identified potential impacts.
  • At the end of each section a list of good practice guidelines is recommended for ports and harbours operating within or near marine SACs to follow in order to avoid, minimise and address with potential adverse environmental effects.

Before entering a discussion of port and harbour operations in marine SACs, some useful background information is provided in Section 2 of the guidelines on the following topics:

  • The Habitats Directive, UK marine SACs, SAC management schemes.
  • Ports and harbours in marine SACs.
  • The process of assessing and addressing environmental affects.

A glossary of terms used in the guidelines is contained in Appendix A. Appendix B contains a list of consultees who received a copy of the consultation draft of the good practice guidelines and who have contributed toward its development and finalisation. Contact details of various national bodies and organisations, which may be useful to those managing European Marine sites, are provided in Appendix C.

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