Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Reception facilities for ship waste must improve

During an IMO meeting on the marine environment this year, shipping lobby groups submitted a proposal that would delay new regulations banning the dumping of cargo residues at sea; a request based on a presumed lack of adequate facilities to handle such materials. Fortunately for the marine environment, the request was rejected but nevertheless, the need to improve port reception facilities is very real if we are to truly combat ship waste dumping and marine environmental problems such as marine litter.
And oil drum found on a UK beach

On the 1st January 2013, changes made to Annex V of MARPOL– the international convention relating to pollution from ships – will come into force and require a ship to discharge its waste at a port waste reception facility rather than dumping it at sea, as has been the allowance for several waste streams under the existing Annex V.

Loop holes will still exist, but largely speaking the changes are a positive move to deter ship waste dumping.

Under Annex V of MARPOL, waste streams include items such as packaging materials, crockery, wood, glass and cargo residues, to name just a few.

Press clippings of recent legal cases 

In their proposal at the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organisation, the industry groups argued that because of a presumed lack of adequate reception facilities to handle cargo residues in some ports across the globe, there should be a deferral of the coming into force of new regulations so as to allow for adequate facilities to be put in place and for ships in the meantime to dump cargo residues at sea where those facilities do not exist.

Although some sympathy can be ascribed to the shipping industry in this instance, in reality ship’s have two choices to make rather than dump their waste at sea: 1) if possible they store the cargo residues on board until they visit a port with adequate facilities 2) they only use ports to unload their cargoes where adequate waste reception facilities are in place.

The decision of the IMO not to defer the coming into force of the new Annex V regulations has a very powerful effect because without the obligation on a ship to discharge their waste at a port, there is the potential that some ports will never provide the adequate facilities because of the lack of demand for their use. 

It is now the case that the IMO should conduct a thorough and independent review of port reception facilities across the globe for the purpose of establishing which ports should take remedial measures and to highlight, for the benefit of shippers, the ports who provide adequate facilities.

In addition, the IMO should also ensure that the GISIS system for the reporting of inadequate facilities should become a mandatory requirement for ships because in its present voluntary format, it is likely that the true scale of inadequate facilities is not being represented.

However, the provision of adequate reception facilities in conjunction with stronger international regulations on ship waste is not the end game situation. Ports also have to ensure that ship’s are not deterred from using the facilities. Here, problems associated with the cost of discharging waste and logistical constraints can pose barriers to their use. Again, good policy can be instrumental, and now we have an opportunity for administrations across the globe to assess their own port operations, and take the appropriate measures to ensure that our seas become No Place For Waste.

For more information on marine litter: Click here

By Chris Carroll

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