Secretary-General Mitropoulos and EC Commissioner Dimas focus on marine pollution issues at a productive meeting

IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and Mr. Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner responsible for the environment, concluded a satisfactory meeting at IMO Headquarters on Wednesday, 16 March.

The meeting took place following an invitation by Mr. Mitropoulos that the two men should get together to establish a good working relationship, reflect on recent developments on matters of mutual interest and others anticipated in the future and to foster a better understanding of the relationship between IMO and the European Commission to the benefit of enhanced environmental protection from pollution from ships and related activities.

Mr. Mitropoulos highlighted the role of IMO, particularly with respect to marine pollution prevention and response through the adoption of a series of relevant IMO instruments. He drew attention, in particular, to the Organization's pollution prevention measures through the MARPOL Convention in the main and to response requirements incorporated in the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation and its HNS protocol. He also highlighted the importance of ratification, by as many States as possible, of the newest IMO conventions relating to the marine environment, such as the Ballast Water Management Convention and the Convention on Anti-fouling Systems, to enable them to come into force soon. He also referred to the ship recycling issue and explained IMO's role in the process.

Specific mention was also made of the forthcoming entry into force, on 5 April 2005, of the 2003 amendments to the MARPOL Convention, including the revised phase-out schedule for single-hull tankers and a new regulation on the carriage of heavy grades of oil, which will ensure that this type of oil is carried in double-hull tankers. Mr. Mitropoulos stressed the importance of a universal approach to such legislation, given the global nature of shipping, and that IMO was the only place to bring proposals for, and seek global solutions in the context of, any such amendments in future.

The anticipated entry into force, on 19 May 2005, of MARPOL Annex VI containing regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships, was also highlighted as a key piece of international legislation, developed and adopted by IMO, which will contribute to a cleaner environment for all.

Secretary-General Mitropoulos (right) greets EC Commissioner DimasMr. Mitropoulos referred to the recent decision by the European Parliament to adopt legislation introducing criminal sanctions in case of ship-source pollution committed with intent, recklessly or by serious negligence and pointed out that, while deliberate acts of pollution need to be treated appropriately, by the same token, the sanctions imposed in cases where negligence or simply the forces of nature have been the primary causal factors should also be appropriate in their severity. He wondered whether imposing criminal sanctions, in such cases, was the appropriate response.

Mr. Dimas congratulated Mr. Mitropoulos for the very constructive work that IMO is doing to protect the marine environment and both sides confirmed their desire to continue to co operate so that environmental protection is well served in pursuit of common goals.

The meeting was the last in a series organized following invitations by Mr. Mitropoulos to those EC Commissioners whose portfolios include matters of interest to IMO. They aimed at establishing good working relationships, reflecting on recent developments and others anticipated in the future and setting a course to better serve the maritime community from IMO's and the EC's particular perspectives. In January this year, Mr. Mitropoulos met Mr. Joe Borg, European Commissioner responsible for fisheries and maritime affairs and last month M. Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of transport policy.

Briefing 16, 17 March 2005

IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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