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Monday October 8, 2007

IMO plans rules on ship recycling

INTERNATIONAL Maritime Organisation (IMO) is working on ship recycling regulations and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in its continuous effort to address environmental pollution contributed by the shipping industry. 

Secretary-general Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said this in his 30th World Maritime Day message celebrated recently with the theme “IMO's Response To Current Environmental Challenges”. 

But shipping is a minor contributor to marine pollution... EFTHIMIOS E. MITROPOULOS
He said the organisation was developing new mandatory ship recycling regulations for international shipping and recycling facilities, which are due for adoption within the next two years. 

The regulations are for: 

·the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling 

·the operation of ship-recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner 

·the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling. 

However, Mitropoulos said, atmospheric pollution might be the most significant threat to the environment today. “In that respect, IMO continues to work towards reducing damage that can be caused if we do not address the challenges posed by air pollution, global warming and climate change,” he said. 

He added that a good deal had already been done by the shipping sector to address emissions, with Annex VI of Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) setting limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, prohibiting deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances, and putting a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil. 

The annex is now undergoing a comprehensive review. 

Mitropoulos said IMO also had a work plan to address emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). 

“Whether we like it or not, the modern world is utterly dependant on motorised transport systems that run largely on fossil fuels. Moreover, it is also a fact that the use of fossil fuels carries an environmental burden.  

“An engine burning fossil fuel will emit a quantity of so-called GHGs and these emissions are now widely accepted as being significant the contributory factors to global warming and climate change,” he said. 

Mitropoulos said the environmental credentials of every country and industry were now under sharper scrutiny than ever before.  

“But, set against land-based industry, shipping is a comparatively minor contributor to marine pollution from human activities,” he said. 

Nevertheless, he said, the organisation and the maritime industry had a track record of continued environmental awareness, concern, action and response. 

Mitropoulos was referring to IMO's work in developing and adopting MARPOL and other conventions to address issues such as the dumping of wastes at sea, the use of harmful anti-fouling paint on ships' hulls, as well as the preparedness, response and co-operation in tackling pollution from oil and from hazardous and noxious substances.  

The most recent one was a new convention on the removal of wrecks that may be a hazard to navigation or a threat to the marine and coastal environments adopted in May. 

IMO is a United Nations agency concerned with the safety of shipping and cleaner oceans. 

Eelco Leemans from the North Sea Foundation under the flag of Friends of the Earth International at IMO said the most serious threat from shipping was still oil pollution. 

“The sea oil pollution is mostly due to operational activity – day-to-day small spills instead of accidents,” he said in an email to StarBiz.  

Another type of pollution is the introduction of invasive species via ballast water. Ballast water is carried in empty ships to provide stability. It is contained on board at the port before the voyage begins and marine organisms are often taken on board with it. These organisms will then be released somewhere else and it can disrupt the ecosystem. 

“Other problems include discharges of cargo residues, marine litter (garbage, cargo-related litter such as ropes, nets and pallets), dismantling of ships in South Asia and disturbance of fragile areas such as anchoring on coral reefs,” he said. 

Maritime Institute of Malaysia centre for coastal and marine environment research fellow Mohd Nizam Basiron said oil pollution from the shipping industry was still small compared with that from land-based activities. 

“Nevertheless, oil spills from accidents can be disastrous. In addition, ships use the lowest grade (bunker fuel) of fossil energy that has greater environmental impact if spilled,” he told StarBiz

In the case of the Straits of Malacca, a busy shipping lane of 90,000 ships annually, Nizam said, the traffic separation scheme and vessel traffic system had proven to be useful in managing the straits. 

“But if the traffic increases in the future, extra measures have to be taken to prevent any mishaps as the majority of vessels transiting the straits are oil tankers,” he said. 

He added that many of the IMO's conventions were adopted as a result of marine accidents.