The Dutch Ministry of Defence is struggling with the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) over naval vessels being moored in the naval port of Den Helder without an environmental permit. The watchdog has imposed an order for incremental penalty payments of up to EUR 1 million for this.
This is evident from a recent judgment of the court in The Hague, which for the time being grants the Ministry of Defence the benefit of the doubt. The penalty imposed has been suspended and in any event does not have to be paid this year. The court found that the parties were ‘deeply divided’. Proceedings on the merits may have to offer a solution. The conflict has been dragging on since 2018.
However, the judge encourages the warring parties to come to a solution together, whereby the ships can simply remain where they are. ‘These are two important institutions of the central government that should be able to resolve their differences of opinion primarily through proper consultation.’
The Nieuwe Haven in Den Helder has been the home port of the Dutch Navy since 1954. Since 2012, it has been subject to an environmental permit. But the Ministry of Defence and the ILT disagree about how exactly this should be interpreted. The main issue here is whether or not the ships are part of the layout of the port.
The watchdog states that a different permit must be applied for mooring and the permanent stay of the naval vessels, and that the ships would otherwise have to leave the port. After an inspection visit in August 2018, the ILT decided to enforce this.
The Ministry of Defence disputes that the current permit is insufficient, but the ILT rejected the objections submitted. According to the Ministry of Defence, a departure of the ships from port is not an option, because they have nowhere else to go and their deployability would be endangered.