Environmental issues take centre stage at IMO

Ballast water management, greenhouse gas emissions from ships and ship recycling are among a host of environmental issues that will take centre stage at IMO during the forthcoming 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). The Committee will convene for a week-long session atIMO headquarters in London, from 7 to 11 October, under the chairmanship of Australia’s Mr Mike Julian.

Ballast Water Management

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August, IMO was urged to finalize the new Convention on Ballast Water Management which has been under development for some time.  Following the approval in principle by the IMO Council and Assembly to convene a Diplomatic Conference on ballast water management, this session of MEPC will be assessing the progress made on preparation of the draft convention with a view to finalizing the timing of the Diplomatic Conference.

The problem of harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water was first raised at IMO in 1988 and since then MEPC, together with MSC and technical sub-committees, has been dealing with the issue.  In order to help developing countries understand the problem and monitor the situation, IMO is implementing the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) and has provided technical support and expertise. 

The problem of invasive species is largely due to the expanded trade and traffic volume over the last few decades.  The effects in the waters of Australia, Canada and the United States as well as the Black Sea have been devastating.  Volumes of seaborne trade continue overall to increase and the problem may not yet have reached its peak.

The immediate challenge is to agree appropriate standards for ballast water within the limitations  of the technology available now and in the near future, while maintaining the overall objective of eliminating the problem totally.

Greenhouse gases

The Committee is expected to progress the preparation of a draft Assembly resolution indicating IMO’s commitment to dealing with greenhouse gas issues and providing general directions as guidance for its future work on this important matter.

 IMO had been invited, in a resolution adopted by the 1997 MARPOL Conference, to undertake a study of CO2 emissions from ships; furthermore, under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, IMO was again especially requested to deal with emissions from ships. The IMO Study on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships was published in 2000 and MEPC was invited to consider the IMO strategy to control greenhouse gas emissions from ships, based on this and on submissions from delegations. 

A correspondence group established by the last session of MEPC produced a sound basis for further discussions on various technical and operational issues, including whether IMO’s efforts should be concentrated on CO2 alone, whether mandatory emission standards are achievable  and whether the greenhouse gas indexing approach is likely to be of value.

Ship recycling

At this session, the MEPC is set to consider further the proposal to develop IMO guidelines on ship recycling. It is anticipated that comprehensive guidelines will be prepared for adoption by the IMO Assembly next year.  It is recognized that, while IMO has a role to play in reducing the safety and environmental risks associated with ship demolition and recycling, there are clearly limits to the scope of IMO’s activities in dealing with the issue.  Co-operation with other UN agencies, namely ILO and the Basel Convention Secretariat, has been recognized as crucial in preparing any international measures in this regard. 

Model Audit Scheme

At the request of the IMO Council, the MEPC will also consider proposals for a voluntary IMO Model Audit Scheme for Flag States. The concept has been approved in principle by the Council which will continue its discussions on the mater at its next meeting in November. The scheme will also be considered by the Maritime Safety Committee and the Technical Co-operation Committee. 

Other issues

Other important matters on the MEPC agenda at this session include:

·      adoption of amendments to the Condition Assessment Scheme under MARPOL regulation 13G
·      adoption of amendments to the list of substances under the 1973 Intervention Protocol
·      further consideration of the MARPOL Annex II categorization scheme
·      consideration of the successful conclusion and recommendations of the Third R&D Forum on High Density Oil Spill Response and of the work programme for implementation of the OPRC‑HNS Protocol
·      proposals for Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
·      technical co-operation programmes
·      development of guidelines for the implementation of the Anti-Fouling Convention


Note to Editors:

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

The 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee will be chaired by Mr Mike Julian from Australia and will be held at IMO Headquarters in London between 7th and 11th October. 

Photographs of Mr Julian and of the IMO Headquarters building are available on request.

Web site: www.imo.org

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 (ladamson@imo.org) or
Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (nbrown@imo.org).