Thirty-ninth Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the 12th Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol (LC 39/LP 12) 9-13 October 2017

Addressing disposal of fibreglass vessels

A large number of abandoned or no-longer usable fibreglass vessels - including fishing vessels and leisure craft - are dumped at sea each year, possibly due to a lack of land-based disposal facilities. This was a concern raised by Pacific delegations to the Parties to the treaties which regulate the dumping of wastes at sea. However, full data on the scale of the problem is lacking.

Fibreglass is a highly recyclable material, and the technology for recycling fibreglass already exists, but the logistics of handling the large amounts of fibreglass hulls from abandoned or derelict vessels poses a significant challenge, in particular in Small Island Developing States.  However, some countries reported that they had implemented a programme or strategy for disposal or deconstruction of fibre glass pleasure boats.

Following discussion, the Parties to the London Convention and London Protocol agreed further work was needed. The IMO Secretariat was instructed to commission a study to collate information on the scale of the problem and identify key knowledge gaps relating to impacts of fibre reinforced plastic vessels dumped or placed in the marine environment.

The Scientific Groups (which provide scientific and technical advice to the Parties to the Convention and Protocol) will be invited to consider the study and evaluate whether there is a need for disposal into the sea of fibre-reinforced plastic vessels or vessels with fibre-reinforced plastic components. If there is a need, then whether such vessels could be disposed of in the sea in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

Additionally, the Scientific Groups should consider whether there is a need to develop guidance on the disposal of fibreglass vessels.

The Scientific Groups are scheduled to meet in April-May 2018 in Chile.

Dredged material guidance finalized

The meeting finalized Step-by-step guidance on simple approaches to creating and using action lists and action levels for dredged material. This guidance is aimed at countries in the early stages of implementing the London Protocol and addresses action lists (set of chemicals of concern) and action levels (thresholds used in the decision making process that determine whether sediments can be disposed of at sea) for dredged material.

On average, 500 million tonnes of permitted dredged material are dumped annually in waters of countries which have signed up to the London Convention or London Protocol. Some 10% of dredged material is contaminated by shipping, industrial and municipal discharges, or by land run-off. It is therefore important to assess if the material is suitable for dumping at sea, before a permit is given. This step-by step guidance complements the other low cost, low technology documents already availbale.

Dealing with platforms and other man-made structures

The meeting continued its work to review and update the Specific guidelines for assessment of platforms or other man-made structures at sea, which were last issued in 2000. Vessels and platforms or other man-made structures at sea may be considered for a permit for dumping under the 1996 London Protocol. A correspondence group was instructed to continue the revision.

Marine litter and microplastics – further efforts needed

The meeting was updated on actions being taken by a number of countries to address the input of marine litter, including microplastics into the marine environment. 

Parties to the London Convention and Protocol were urged to redouble efforts to share knowledge and technical expertise with regard to the analysis of plastics, including microplastics, in dredged material and sewage sludge (in particular). This is with a view to developing methods to enable routine, reliable monitoring, assessment and reporting of microplastic contaminant levels in such waste streams as soon as possible. 

Delegations were also encouraged to share information on successful and effective methods to reduce microplastics entering the environment through waste streams.

The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) working group on microplastics second microplastics report, published in January 2017, investigates the sources and fate and potential ecological impacts of microplastics and gives recommendations for further work.

Compliance and monitoring
The meeting reviewed in general matters relating to compliance and monitoring, including the submission of obligatory reports.

Under the London Convention and Protocol, Parties are required to submit annual reports on dumping activities (such as permits which have been granted); any illegal activities detected; exceptions granted (such as force majeure); and so on.  However, the reporting rate is low, at 60% of the Protocol Parties.

The meeting urged all Parties, if they had not done so, to provide the Secretariat with their annual reports, including NIL reports that indicate no dumping activities were undertaken in a particular year.

A compliance group, formed of 15 elected members (three per region) has been established to review compliance and develop materials to support compliance. These include a “Frequently asked questions” document, and a power point presentation on reporting requirements, which will be further reviewed by a correspondence group for finalization.

A Barriers to Compliance (B2C) Project, funded by voluntary contributions from a number of countries over the years, has also been contributing to the work to improve compliance and not least to increase the ratifications of the Protocol.

A number of national and regional workshops to raise awareness of the London Protocol were held during the past year, as part of an ongoing series. The workshops have been supported by the IMO Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (IMO ITCP), the LC/LP Technical Cooperation Trust Fund. The meeting also thanked the Governments of Canada, People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the United Kingdom, for providing funding and experts in-kind to those activities.

Guidance on national implementation of the London Protocol
The Meetings approved the Revised guidance on national implementation of the London Protocol, and instructed the Secretariat to publish it, as soon as possible, in all three working languages of IMO. The revised document replaces the initial guidance, which was adopted in 2001, with a view to increasing ratifications of the London Protocol.

Implementation of the Strategic Plan
The meeting noted that the 2016 Strategic Plan for the London Protocol/Convention, approved at the last meeting,  had been registered as a voluntary commitment to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (Life below water), following the 2017 UN Oceans Conference, held in New York in June. 

A draft implementation plan was approved by the meeting to support bringing the strategic plan to fruition.