Marine geoengineering guidance agreed
Guidance for consideration of marine geoengineering activities was agreed by the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol, meeting for their 36th/9th session.
The guidance is aimed at assisting Contracting Parties to the London Protocol and Convention in considering whether and, if so, in what form and context, marine geoengineering activities of potential concern should be addressed.
The Meeting also agreed the arrangements for establishing a roster of international independent experts, intended to provide Parties with experts capable of advising on assessing marine geoengineering activities listed under annex 4 to the London Protocol, following amendments to the London Protocol which were adopted in 2013. Those amendments will enter into force 60 days after two thirds of the Contracting Parties have deposited an instrument of acceptance of the amendment with IMO. No acceptances have been received to date.
Currently the only such activity listed under marine geoengineering is “ocean fertilization”, defined as any activity undertaken by humans with the principal intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans. An ocean fertilization activity may only be considered for a permit if it is assessed as constituting legitimate scientific research taking into account any specific placement assessment framework.
The meeting noted that a web-based repository of references relating to the application of the Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization under the London Convention and London Protocol (LC/LP) had been developed and would be migrated shortly to the LC/LP website (www.londonprotocol.imo.org ).
25-year scientific review of all radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter
The Meeting established a correspondence group to develop a work plan regarding the scientific study relating to all radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter other than high level wastes or matter, required every 25 years under the London Convention and Protocol in order to review the prohibition on dumping of such substances.
It was agreed that a step by step assessment approach could be employed, in order to determine the type and level of review that would be needed to fulfil the requirements of the Convention/Protocol. This could include, inter alia, a literature review focusing on the period after 1993 (including the highly relevant recent IAEA reports), and a review of the 1993 Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Radioactive Waste (IGPRAD) report (LC/IGPRAD 6/5) which was the result of a seven-year study focusing on the wider political, legal, economic and social aspects of radioactive waste dumping at sea; the issue of comparative land-based options and the costs and risks associated with these options; and the question of whether it can be proven that dumping of radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter will not harm human life and/or cause significant harm to the marine environment.
The prohibition on dumping of radioactive wastes was prohibited under amendments to the London Convention adopted in 1993, but both the London Convention and Protocol allow for the dumping of certain permitted materials so long as they do not contain levels of radioactivity greater than de minimis (exempt) concentrations as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The scientific review is required to be undertaken within 25 years of 20 February 1994 (date of entry into force of the 1993 LC amendments), and at each 25 year interval thereafter.
Guidance on removal of anti-fouling coatings updated
Revised guidance on best management practices for removal of anti-fouling coatings from ships, including TBT hull paints was agreed.
The guidance updates the previously issued version to include reference to guidance issued by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, including the 2011 Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species (Resolution MEPC.207(62)) and the 2012 Guidance for minimizing the transfer of invasive aquatic species as biofouling (hull fouling) for recreational craft (MEPC.1/Circ.792).
Marine disposal of mine tailings to be addressed at international conference in 2015
The meeting noted that an international conference on mine tailings disposal is to be held in Lima, Peru, in June 2015, under the auspices of the UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), supported by the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol.
The conference would aim primarily to increase the scientific understanding of impacts on the marine environment of deep sea tailings placement.
The Meeting established a correspondence group to assist in preparation for the conference and to continue to gather information on best practices and existing guidance and legislation and other relevant issues of marine and riverine disposal of mine tailings around the world, identifying any gaps in best practices and existing guidance.
A 2012 report noted that a total of 15 mines (i.e., 0.6%) out of approximately 2,500 large scale mines world-wide used marine or riverine disposal for mine tailings, under Government permits, and that a number of mines around the world are in the early stages of development and are considering marine disposal as one of the alternatives for disposal of mine tailings.