Partial Amendments to the “Enforcement Decree of the Prevention of Marine Pollution Act” were submitted to the Ministry Cabinet on November 8, 2022 and passed for their enforcement from May 16, 2023. The reasons for the Amendments, key details, and countermeasures are set out below.
Background and Details of the Amendments
The “Sea Area Utilization Consultation and Sea Area Utilization Impact Assessment” is a system that examines the feasibility of various development projects conducted at the sea by preventively and proactively grasping the impact of such projects on the marine environment and assessing the appropriateness of the utilization of the sea (Grounds: Articles 84 and 85 of the Prevention of Marine Pollution Act and Article 20 of the Act on Conservation and Utilization of the Marine Environment). Consultation and impact assessment on the sea area utilization necessary for licenses, permits, designation, etc. (e.g., occupancy or use permit of public waters, aquaculture license, marine aggregate extraction project, etc.) related to various marine development projects have been conducted in a dualistic manner as follows, depending on the type of a enforcement agency:
Where an enforcement agency is the head of a central administrative agency: the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries.
Where an enforcement agency is an institution affiliated with a central administrative agency or a local government: the Head of the competent Regional Office of Ocena and Fisheries.
The sea aggregate extraction project and the offshore wind power generation project, etc. for the construction of landfills or the development of harbor hinterland complex, etc. have a huge impact on the marine environment, and it is necessary to improve the consistency and expertise of the policies in the process of implementing such projects. Therefore, the amendments have been made to ensure that the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (the authority within the power of the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries) will consistently conduct evaluations on the relevant projects, irrespective of the enforcement agency, only for the sea area utilization consultation and impact assessment for sea aggregate extraction and offshore wind power generation projects (Articles 94(4)11 and 94(4)12 of the Enforcement Decree of the Prevention of Marine Pollution Act).
Expected Effects and Future Challenges
As the supply and demand imbalance in the aggregate market is intensifying, there is a limit to meeting the demand for aggregate only with aggregate extracted from land, and marine aggregate extraction is in the spotlight as a stable source of aggregate supply. In addition, the importance and value of offshore wind power generation are increasing in the process of transitioning to a carbon-neutral society, and its economic feasibility is gradually improving. However, since the marine aggregate extraction business and offshore wind power generation business have such a significant impact on the overall marine environment, such as marine ecosystem, offshore transportation, and local residents’ fishing rights, the industrial and economic aspects and the value of environmental preservation should be well and adequately balanced, and in order to develop the above industry as an environmentally sustainable industry, the long-term fostering policy of the government as well as the cooperation system with relevant ministries are no doubt, important.
The Proposed Amendments to the Enforcement Decree are significant in that the headquarters of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will directly engage in consultations and impact assessments for the relevant sea area utilizations regarding the sea aggregate extraction and offshore wind power generation projects, which have a large mid- to long-term impact on the marine environment, and thus handle relevant tasks systematically and consistently. In addition, as the enforcement agency in charge of assessment changes depending on the type of relevant dispositions, it is expected that problems such as lower predictability of assessment results or procedural confusion that interested parties such as business operators might have been in experience in the process of handling complaints will be expectevely improved.
The Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries who is in charge of the national maritime policy, will take a lead in consultation and assessing the relevant utilization for the sea area regarding the marine aggregate extraction project and the offshore wind project, and will comprehensively analyze their impact on the marine environment. The assessment criteria applicable nationwidely will be established, and in turn, will ensure the consistency and the predictability of the assessment process and increase the confidence in all the assessment results. It is necessary to pay attention to whether there will be any significant change in the specific examination criteria, detailed examination items, weight of examination by item, other procedures or methods, etc. in the course of the actual consultation with the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries and to monitor the assessment of any implact on the sea area utilization. Also, it is necessary to continuously monitor the trend of case analysis and the relevant policy research on the assessment or the evaluation results of the specific projects.