November 15, 2018

IMO Adopts Action Plan on Marine Litter

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

30 October 2018: The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted an action plan that enhances existing regulations and introduces measures to reduce and prevent marine plastic litter entering the oceans through ship-based activities. The action plan is in line with IMO’s commitment to support achievement of SDG 14 (life below water).

The ‘IMO Action Plan to Address Marine Plastic Litter from Ships’ recognizes the wide range of land- and sea-based activities through which marine plastic litter enters the marine environment. The plan highlights the negative effects of large plastic items, small plastic particles and microplastics on biodiversity, marine life and human health. In addition, the plan states that marine plastic litter can negatively impact activities like fishing, shipping and tourism.

The plan recommends specific measures to: reduce marine plastic litter generated from, and retrieved by, fishing vessels; reduce shipping’s contribution to marine plastic litter; improve the effectiveness of port reception and facilities and treatment in reducing marine plastic litter; enhance public awareness, education and seafarer training; improve understanding of the contribution of ships to marine plastic litter; improve understanding of the regulatory framework associated with marine plastic litter from ships; strengthen international cooperation; and target technical cooperation and capacity building.

The action plan recommends strengthening international cooperation, especially with FAO and UNEP.

The action plan identifies a number of specific measures to tackle marine litter and waste, such as promoting reporting the loss of fishing gear and facilitating the delivery of retrieved fishing gear to shore facilities. Other measures suggest: consideration of actions, such as making marking of fishing gear mandatory, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and the establishment of a compulsory mechanism to declare loss of containers at sea and identify the number of losses; and reviewing provisions related to the training of fishing vessel personnel and seafarers to ensure awareness of the impact of marine litter.

In addition, the plan proposes: measures to increase awareness and understanding, including a proposed study on marine plastic litter from ships; looking into the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities; and enhancing public awareness on marine plastic litter. The action plan also recommends strengthening international cooperation, especially with FAO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), such as by making information available to the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA).

The action plan will build on and complement existing mechanisms and legislation that address the discharge of waste and plastic in the sea. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) aims to prevent pollution from ships by prohibiting ships from discharging plastic into the sea and requiring governments to ensure adequate port reception facilities to receive ship waste. The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention and Protocol) regulates what materials can be dumped at sea and what materials are not permitted. The Action Plan will be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary. The MEPC adopted the action plan at its 73rd session that convened in London, UK, from 22-26 October 2018.