Secretary-General urges realistic, pragmatic and well-balanced approach to tanker regulations as key meeting gets underway
Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - 49th session: 14-18 July 2003
IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil urged a realistic, pragmatic and well-balanced approach to consideration of proposals to amend oil tanker regulations in the MARPOL convention, as he addressed delegates at the opening of the 49th session of the Organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in London today (14 July 2003).
Referring to proposals
brought to IMO in the wake of the Prestige incident, Mr O'Neil urged
delegates to ensure their decisions were "realistic, pragmatic and well-balanced
so that they will not cause or lead to any negative repercussions which might:
Mr. O'Neil reminded delegates that following the sinking of the Prestige off the west coast of Spain in November 2002 and soon after the magnitude of its impact on the marine environment was enunciated by the coastal States, he embarked on a number of activities to ensure that IMO could respond promptly to any action that might be needed.
"Amongst other matters, I visited the then President of the European Union Transport Ministers' Council and the European Commission Transport Commissioner and simultaneously kept an open line of communication with the flag and coastal States involved, as well as with the classification society concerned. My efforts were also directed towards convincing all parties that any regulatory changes which might be considered for introduction should be brought to IMO where they would be examined promptly and action on them would be taken expeditiously within the requirements as laid down in the MARPOL Convention", he noted.
As a result, the proper process was followed when the proposals to amend the MARPOL Convention were submitted to IMO by the European Union Members. These were promptly circulated for consideration by MARPOL Parties under the provisions of the Convention concerning the amendment procedures. In addition, the Informal Group of Experts on the Impact Assessment of the Proposed Amendments to the MARPOL Convention, which had been set up in 2000 in the wake of the Erika incident, was reactivated and a completed report submitted to the MEPC.
Mr. O'Neil reminded delegates that the Council had approved the holding of a two-day Extra Session of MEPC in December this year, to be held during the 23rd regular session of the Assembly, should the MEPOC decide it needed that session.
The proposals to amend MARPOL 73/78, submitted by all the fifteen Member States of the European Union, call for further acceleration of the phase-out timetable for single-hull tankers, an immediate ban on the carriage of heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers and for the Condition Assessment Scheme (adopted in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 Erika incident) to be applied to tankers of 15 years of age and above.
Mr. O'Neil highlighted another pressing issue for the MEPC: the finalization of the draft text of a Convention for Ballast Water Management.
Noting that the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year agreed that the process of development aiming at measures to address invasive species in ballast water should be accelerated and urged IMO to finalize the draft ballast water convention as a priority environmental issue, Mr. O'Neil referred to the issue as a complex and challenging task.
However, he added,
an Intersessional Working Group had been able to reduce the number of options
and issues still to be decided at the current session.
Mr. O'Neil noted that the report published by GESAMP in 1989 provided new findings, which suggested that oil pollution resulting from shipping operations had continuously decreased over the three decades covered by its study. The MARPOL Convention had made a significant and positive impact on tanker operations and the report of a recent study on oil input conducted by GESAMP, which will be released shortly, will reconfirm the continuance of this trend.
During the 1990s,
a number of new environmental issues emerged in the work programme of IMO, such
"During the past ten years, MEPC has been especially productive and has raised international standards to prevent marine pollution by ships and these efforts have been well recognized within the United Nations system and by the Industry as a whole," Mr. O'Neil said.
"The coverage of measures adopted at IMO over a broad range of environmental issues have expanded rapidly so that the demand for international solutions to specific problems which have been identified by the growing environmental conscience of the general public have largely been met. "
Mr. O'Neil reflected
on upon large-scale environmental programmes which have been handled by the
Organization over the last decade and which are relevant to the work of the
MEPC. With the support of the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and
the UNDP, IMO has successfully managed:
Mr O'Neil expressed his appreciation of the leadership and management provided by the Secretariat's Marine Environment Division in the conduct of these environmental Projects. "I also wish to express my sincere appreciation to participating Governments, organizations and to the Industry for their encouragement and contributions as well as to the MEPC for providing the overall support and guidance needed to assure their effective implementation, he added.
O'Neil told the MEPC delegates, "Although our efforts to deal with certain
specific issues, such as the improvement of port reception facilities and the
enforcement of various conventions, as well as the anticipated establishment
of controls for ballast water management are ongoing, I am sure that your Committee
has responded effectively and efficiently to fulfilling its role as the global
legislative body responsible for the establishment of international rules and
regulations regarding ship-related environmental measures."
15 July 2003
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.