20 October 2014
IMO - a creative technical body
Today (18 October 2014), I am writing this blog in a hotel in Mexico City, reviewing the progress made last week at IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). I am here in Mexico to attend the Fourth National Congress of Mexican Merchant Marine. This is my first visit to Mexico personally and the first official visit by an IMO Secretary-General. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Mexico’s joining IMO and I am looking forward to the various meetings and visits arranged for this official mission.
Having observed the successful conclusion of another very important MEPC session yesterday, I think that IMO has firmly returned to its roots as a creative technical body, regulating international shipping. Member Governments, shipping industry representatives, civil society organisations – indeed, all stakeholders – participated in the creative process, searching for common and shared ground, and they have found solutions. The spirit of cooperation has prevailed and last week clearly showed that IMO is functioning properly, delivering outputs to meet the expectations of all.
Ballast water management was one of the main issues in focus at this session. MEPC responded to the challenges and effectively built confidence among stakeholders, the industry and member Governments regarding the implementation of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention.
Last year, the IMO Assembly had already adopted a realistic application schedule for existing ships and agreed to refrain from imposing sanctions based on sampling and analysis during the initial period of implementation. However, the industry’s concerns surrounding ballast water sampling and the viability of existing on-board treatment facilities already installed under the existing Guidelines (G8) were raised at this session of MEPC.
At this session, guidelines for port State control and a new MEPC resolution were adopted. The Committee agreed to start a revision of the Guidelines (G8) and also agreed not to penalise proactive shipowners that installed type-approved systems prior to the application of the revised Guidelines (G8).
The MEPC has now responded to all major concerns raised by the shipping industry and, therefore, there should not be any additional obstacles preventing the implementation of the BWM Convention.
With this development, and the firm consensus within the Committee, the convention should now become active as soon as possible and the relevant IMO measures should be implemented without further delay.
I welcome the statement made by the International Chamber of Shipping on Friday, after the crucial session of MEPC (welcoming the progress made), and I sincerely hope that industry organisations and shipowners will reconsider their previous position and now encourage flag States to ratify the convention. I sincerely hope that Member Governments will take serious action to ratify the convention as soon as possible and ensure that it comes into force without further delay.
The prospects are now looking better than ever and I am looking forward to further developments before the end of this year and in the coming months , before the opening of the next session of MEPC, in mid-2014