ASOSAI Seminar on Environmental Auditing


This paper describes a co-ordinated/parallel audit carried out by the Turkish Court of Accounts of marine pollution from ships in Turkey. Our national audit report was published in May 2002.

Marine pollution constitutes one of the serious problems all parts of the world. Especially, sea transport is an activity that carries with a number of environmental risks to marine ecosystem. Given the international nature of the issue, a co-ordinated audit was planned and conducted. This audit was organized with the purpose to verify compliance with the obligations arising from mainly International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL. However, main aim was to display the best practices in that field.

This paper consists of two sections: part one is about some experiences from the co-ordinated audit work; part two is about key findings in the Turkish audit.


Part I- The Co-ordinated/Parallel Audit Work

Experiences from the co-operation between the seven SAIs

This chapter describes why we choose to examine this subject and to carry out parallel audit, what we covered in the audit and how we did the audit.


The initiative for a co-operation among the SAIs on the environmental audit was taken by the Netherlands Court of Accounts in July 2000. At the meeting held in The Hague in December 2000 between 7 SAIs, the parties discussed what approach to environmental issues and what kind of co-operations to choose. The audit institutions of Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Southern Cyprus, Turkey and the United Kingdom decided to audit marine pollution from ships. The common denominator between them is the MARPOL Convention. The main reason for auditing this convention is the fact that the parties have certain environmental problems in common that the convention aims to regulate. With the Turkish Court of Accounts joined in the cooperation; it took part in a co-ordinated/parallel audit of an environmental policy area for the first time.

The audit institutions did not only scrutinize their countries’ compliance with MARPOL, but also with other treaties that are valid to all or some of them – e.g. the Barcelona Convention on dealing with pollution incidents, the Mediterranean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control and the Paris MoU on the same – and to their own policies.

Seven SAIs reported their national findings to their respective governments. These reports were published in the respective countries between 2001 and 2003. The joint report is being prepared now and is expected to be published within this year. It will be a compilation of the most important findings of seven national audits.


The objective of the audit was to identify practical achievements and difficulties on the marine environment protection and to improve the mechanism of implementing the international obligations. Multilateral cooperation is a natural consequence of the need national governments to account for policies that can only in practice be implemented internationally. Nevertheless, the study was not a compliance audit, instead, aims to draw on accords to identify standards and best practices that we should look for in anti-oil pollution regimes. So, the SAIs has cooperated to learn about how others deal with similar problems and issues.

The issue

Water was adopted as a central theme of the activities of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing. After considering the matter carefully, the SAIs came to the conclusion that conducting an audit of marine pollution from ships' would make the most suitable and interesting issue for the audit. Reasons of the selection of this issue:

- firstly - its substantial environmental and economic interest in many countries. Ships discharging oil, chemicals or other wastes illegally at sea, and government agencies being faced with the task of fighting the consequences of environmental disasters at sea, are only two of a number of interesting aspects that would be dealt with in the audit.

- secondly - the fact MARPOL provided with a common starting point for the audit; all of the countries that are bound by the convention have taken upon themselves to take measures to prevent marine pollution, for instance by inspecting ships at regular intervals to check compliance to international environmental regulations.

The objective of this convention is to prevent and eliminate pollution of the marine environment. It covers marine pollution by oil, chemicals and other harmful substances aiming at preventing and minimizing marine pollution caused either by accident or by routine operations. Oil is the most common contaminant from ships, and more oil is discharged during ship's day-to-day operations than is spilled in maritime accidents.

Importance for Turkey

Turkish Court of Accounts determined that the issue has the highest materiality and risk since Turkey is located in one of the busiest maritime traffic areas of the world. Surrounded by seas on its three sides, Turkey has one of the longest coastlines in Europe. Unfortunately, its seas are getting more polluted each day because of heavy maritime traffic, especially in the over-loaded Turkish Straits.

Shipping-related pollution includes discharges and spillage of petroleum products. Discharge by ships of oily water such as ballast water, bilge water, as well as garbage and sewage cause considerable pollution.  The other important factor leading to sea pollution is the spills from accidents. Particularly, the vessels carrying oil pose a high risk to environmental security. With the high volume of oil being shipped through the Turkish Straits, oil tanker accidents can release large quantities of oil into the marine environment. Around 50,000 vessels per year now pass through them. Around one-tenth of these is oil or liquefied natural gas tankers. In 2000, the total amount of oil carried was 91 million tones.

This danger was underscored in 1994, when the Nassia tanker spilled 20,000 tons of oil into the Straits.  December 29, 1999, the Volgoneft-248, the Russian tanker, ran aground and split in two in the southwest shores of Istanbul. More than 1,300 tons of the 4,300 tons of fuel oil on board spilled into the Marmara Sea, affecting about 5 square miles of the sea. Within the past ten years, 150 serious accidents have occurred in one of world’s most dangerous straits. In brief, so far, Turkey suffered a series of substantial oil spills.

Two important developments have recently drawn the world’s attention to maritime safety of these straits. Transportation of Caspian oil through the Turkish Straits and ratification by Russia of the law permitting the import/export of nuclear waste have increased the concerns on the safety of the Straits.


The MARPOL convention which has been ratified by many countries was of great importance as a source of audit criteria. The countries that have ratified the Convention have undertaken “to take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution”. This means: to implement all measures that will protect the maritime area to ensure that their national policies are in accordance with the provisions laid down in the MARPOL Convention. MARPOL places limits on discharge levels and obligations on its signatories to:

- inspect ships in port and at sea;

- trace (through air surveillance, for example) and prosecute polluting ships; and

- ensure that there are adequate port facilities for receiving waste from ships.

Focus of the audit:

Ø whether national policy regarding preventing and dealing with pollution is being implemented and enforced;

Ø whether government measures to prevent pollution from ships are efficient and effective;

Ø whether government measures to deal with pollution from ships are timely and effective;

Ø whether the tracing, prosecuting and punishing the polluters result in the outcomes needed.

Each of these topics has been broken down into smaller issues. These issues were listed in an annex (formulated as audit criteria).



The audit has followed performance auditing techniques. Performance methodology was selected for their auditability, significance and the potential for the audit process to add value. The planning phase became very important for deciding the scope of the audit. Firstly, the various actors and their responsibilities were identified, pursuant to national and international law. The responsible actors differ for each stage.   

In the course of the investigation, the audit teams examined files and records and interviewed the relevant organizations’ staff, observed the activities that the staffs conducted when carrying out their tasks and consulted the literature on the subject. Some SAIs issued a questionnaire and reviewed and analyzed them.

The evidence for the audits was collected by utilizing these methods:

- Reviewing the relevant international conventions and national regulations;

- Interviewing key personnel, academic staff and stakeholders (shipping, port and oil industries, fishing, tourism sectors; non-governmental organizations;

- Examining documentation and ship survey and inspection files;

- Structured interviewed;

- Testing the tools and equipment used in monitoring and removal of pollution;

- Observing their response to contingencies and actual occurrences;

- Data analysis;

- Case studies of pollution accident;

- Comparison to best practices.


Conducting the audit

The audit has two aspects: firstly, measures taken in order to prevent pollution from ships (for example requirements for construction and equipment of sea ships and port reception facilities); and secondly dealing with pollution from ships (tracing pollution and sources of pollution, cleaning up, and prosecuting (recovery).

The seven SAI carried out cross-organization audits in their countries in order to find their national approach. The SAIs exchanged a lot of information during the audit via the Internet.

As the participating SAIs deal with its own countries’ administrative system, but further methods were adjusted to suit particular national requirements.





Part II- National Implementation of the Conventions

   Key findings and lessons

This part covers what we found and what did we achieve from the audit; what lessons we learn from the audit.

The Turkish Court of Accounts examined whether, and to what extent, there are adequate policies, procedures and controls to prevent, and deal with, pollution arising from maritime activities. Our national audit report identified areas that need improvement regarding the implementation of government policy to marine pollution from ships.  The audit has resulted in the following conclusions and recommendations:

National policy and accountability

To begin with, The Turkish Court of Accounts evaluated the main characteristics of Turkish policy directed at marine pollution from ships, and the accountability for that policy. A key goal here was to clarify the degree to which the provisions in the conventions are incorporated in Turkish legislation and regulations. The audit results disclosed legal and legislative gaps, because in the absence of a consolidated act all the relevant provisions. Turkey’s statutory framework is fragmentary and complex, and unable to govern this subject matter completely and comprehensively.  

Various government entities, namely the Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs under Prime Ministry, the Ministry of Environment, the Coast Guard Command, the General Management of Coastal Safety and Salvage Administrations, Metropolitan Municipalities, provincial and district governors and port administrations involve in the prevention of, and dealing with, marine pollution from ships. Nonetheless, according to the findings of the audit, there isn’t enough guidance and feedback between the policy level and the administrative level, as to ensure a clear understanding of the policy domain, the objectives and regulations.  

Recommendations: The formulation of policies should maintain a clear line of accountability. The mandate, power and responsibility of the public institutions should be clearly defined. Since there are a number of institutions all taking part in preventing and dealing with pollution, reaching the objectives in this area requires development of close links and efficient collaboration among these bodies.

Survey and inspections

The risks of marine pollution are not limited to national waters; they are transboundary in nature since ships sail all over the world. There are close linkages between issues relating to ship safety and pollution prevention; defects in safety measures inevitably increase the risks of marine pollution from ships. International conventions in conjunction with national legislation provide a framework for safer shipping and pollution prevention.

MARPOL and other treaties require ships to comply with rules and regulations, e.g. with regard to equipment and conduct. National governments need to ensure that flag state control is performed on vessels sailing under their national flag, and that port state control is performed on a certain percentage of foreign vessels visiting their ports. Flag state control (survey) and port state control initiatives contribute towards ship safety and pollution prevention from ships worldwide.

The Turkish Court of Accounts ascertained the quality of surveys and inspections.

Flag state control

As shown by the audit, while undertaking surveying activities, the ship surveyors in Turkey did not have access to a quality assurance system and the guidelines, manuals and checklist that are a part of such a system. For this reason, one could not be certain that these surveys have been as comprehensive as required by the national and international rules. Also in Turkey survey data cannot be used as a feedback resource because the information was not recorded in an electronic environment. Lack of an effective control over these classification agencies constitutes a great risk factor.

Port state control

The audit revealed that the Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs has been trying to conduct port state controls with limited number of personnel. Since these controlling officers are getting less pay it becomes difficult to employ enough number qualified and skilful persons for these posts. Also, there is the lack of means and tools available to these controllers to conduct their controlling duty effectively.

The memorandums to which Turkey is a Party requires that for port state control there has to be a targeted number of inspections determined and priorities in targeting of vessels should be specified. The Undersecretariat for Maritime has not set forth its target.  Neither has it been reviewing whether the number of the inspection it had conducted complied with the minimum 15-percentage requirement. This is mainly because of the fact that the up-to-data, reliable and valid data and information are not available for a review of its performances. This indicates how urgent the need for a strong centralized database system the Undersecretariat plans to build.

Recommendations: In order to be able to efficiently carry out inspection activities the Undersecretariat of Maritime Affairs needs to be provided with sufficient resources and tools and be allowed to recruit enough number of qualified personnel as well. It should pay more attention to training of its personnel to enable them carry out their duties efficiently and effectively.

The Undersecretariat of Maritime Affairs should exercise a more stringent control over the classification agencies it authorizes. 

The Undersecretariat of Maritime Affairs should set out its own targets in connection with port state inspection and should evaluate the degree of its success in realizing these targets.

Handing in of waste

The Turkish Court of Accounts evaluated adequacy of port waste reception facilities. Under current legislation, a variety of institutions are allowed to operate the ports including private companies, local administrations and public economic enterprises. The large number of bodies involved leads to different practices and makes it harder to compliance with the national and international legal requirements regarding waste reception. 

Furthermore, there is not one single authority directly responsible for monitoring and inspecting the construction and operation of these waste facilities. This has reduced the effectiveness of waste reception activities in Turkey. In addition, it has created difficulties with respect to drawing up of necessary codes and norms.

At the primary ports solid and liquid waste reception and treatment facilities were built during 1985-1986. The examination of the Turkish Court of Accounts identified profound deficiencies regarding the waste reception requirements at the primary ports. Yet, due to high treatment costs and old technology utilized, the waste in these ports is not treated fully.

Recommendations: It is not clear which authority is responsible for the construction of waste reception facilities as called by the international agreements. Therefore this deficiency in national regulations should be corrected as soon as possible.

Combating pollution

In this chapter, the audit describes some important aspects of the extent to which Turkey is prepared for a pollution incident and cleaning activities.

The contingency plans developed in accordance with this general framework set up by the Ministry of Environment, do not meet all the requirements that a contingency plan is must have under the international agreements. The Municipality Act has not drawn a clear line in connection with the responsibilities of the municipalities in responding to the pollution incidents at sea. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, on the other hand, conducts counter-pollution activities in case when pollution from ships or any other sources at sea occurs.

The operational processes don’t sufficiently guarantee timely, complete and correct recovery. Whilst General Management of Coastal Safety and Salvage Administrations has no responsibility for responding to counter-pollution activities since it deals with ship rescuing activities it has various equipment and crafts that can be used in counter-pollution activities. The authority most capable to respond to emergencies, the Coast Guard has no responsibility in connection with responding to and cleaning up the pollution at sea.

Recommendations: The national contingency plan should include a number of distinct scenarios and be supported by practical training. It should be clearly defined which organization(s) will be responsible for the removal of spill. The organization responsible for removal and cleaning up of pollution incidents should be provided with sufficient means, tools and equipment.

Dealing with offenders

This chapter is about what happens after a pollution incident has taken place.

Fines for pollution by ships in ports or territorial waters can be very severe (1,600 Euro at min.-270,000 Euro at max.) by Turkish standards. However, the regulation uses the criteria of gross tonnage of the ship that causes the pollution for assessment of the amount of the punishment instead of type and quantity of the pollution that results unjust fines. For example in case when a small ship below 18 gross tonnage discharges highly toxic chemical substance into the sea thus causes severe environmental pollution would  be charged of only TL. 2.1 billions (for example, the punishment of the smaller Volganeft-248 ship, which spilled tons of oil in to the sea is only 19 billion TL) whereas a relatively bigger ship over 1000 gross tonnage dumping garbage into would have to pay TL.71.4 billions.

Recommendations: The duties and responsibilities of the bodies in charge of conducting monitoring activities and penalizing polluters should be clearly re-defined. The organizations responsible for monitoring and punishment of marine polluters be provided with the opportunity to set up their own laboratories to analyze such samples. Such fines to be applied against polluters should be re-designed to consider fairness and prevention first and should not cause unnecessary delays in ships’ voyage.


Improvements after the audit

Our report attracted media interest and auditee bodies have made the noticeable progress in the direction of our recommendations. Some important changes were made in the management of the relevant institutions (for example, Ship Inspection Department and Marine Environment Department within the Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs were established on October 2002). After our report, the number of port state controls increased and began to implement a secondary control on flag state ships, first time.

The Regulation on recognition, authorization and monitoring of survey and certification organizations went into effect in 2003. More recently, a number of draft regulations on marine pollution have been prepared, including those concerning the draft regulation on inspection and certification of ships, the draft regulation on port state control. Also, a draft law on prevention of maritime accidents has been prepared by the Ministry of Environment.

A regulation on waste reception has been put into force. Through the Law enacted in 2004, Metropolitan Municipalities are given the tasks of collecting waste of sea vessels, cleaning and treating this waste and make the relevant arrangements.

So, Turkey would gradually begin to use a wider variety of policy instruments to prevent marine pollution.




Lessons for the future

The co-ordinated/parallel audit of “Marine Pollution from Ships” has been very beneficial both in terms of audit findings and as a co-operation exercise between audit institutions; it gave us a good chance to learn from each other. We are also happy to work together with our counterparts.

Environmental audits will be increasingly more important in the future since they play a role in solving environmental problems. The audits ensure those agencies directly responsible on environmental issues are held accountable; they urge these agencies to be more efficient and responsive. Also, sharing best practice improves efficiency. We believe that SAI’s can in such ways make considerable contribution to environmental protection.

I would like to say that that the Turkish Court of Accounts is very pleased to attend this meeting. Because, she is place great value on the opportunity to meet our international colleagues to discuss matters of mutual concern.

Learning to work with and learn from other SAIs would be helpful for our audits.

Audit Criteria Methodology

(Sub-issues) (Nature and Location of Evidence)

A. Policy and co-operation between national authorities


A.1 National policy




Legislation (Internal and international)

Reviewing the MARPOL , the Mediterranean Memorandum, the Black Sea Memorandum and Barcelona Convention and Black Sea

National Environment Strategic Plan

Policy instruments

Interviews with key personnel in headquarters and regions

Statement of Corporate goals

Interviews at the audited bodies

A.2  Operational plans


   Action plans / Management plans

   Output reports

   Organizational Chart

   Definition of staff responsibilities and job descriptions

   Accountability lines


A.3  Monitoring and evaluating policy

 Information systems

 Monitoring reports



 B. Government measures to prevent pollution from ships


B.1  Surveys


Survey reports

Review of:

Survey plans

Training program

Details of:

Staff qualifications

Staff locations

Assessments of quality of surveys


B.2  Inspections


Sample of inspections

Time series analysis of inspection reports

Assessments of quality of inspections


B.3  Handing in of wastes


Monitoring reports

Interviews in ports

C. Government measures to deal with pollution from ships


C.1  Contingency plans

Analysis of options

C.2  Detection of pollution

Evidence from case study examples

C.3  Cleaning up of pollution

Guidelines for cleaning up activities



D. Tracing, prosecuting and  punishing offences


D.1  Tracing

File examination

D.2  Prosecuting and punishing

Evidence from case study examples