Home » Breaking News, Maritime, Ports/Terminals » IMO adopts action plan to reduce marine plastic litter from ships

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced it has adopted an action plan that will address marine plastic litter from ships and introduce a number of measures to reduce plastic litter in the marine environment.

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee 73 (MEPC) adopted the action plan on October 26, 2018 with the aim to contribute to the global solution for preventing marine plastic litter entering the oceans through ship-based activities.

IMO member states meeting in the MEPC agreed on actions to be completed by 2025, which relate to all ships, including fishing vessels. The action plan supports IMO’s commitment to meeting the targets set in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the oceans.

The action plan notes that marine plastic litter enters the marine environment through a wide range of land- and sea-based activities. Both macroplastics (for example, large plastic items such as plastic bags, water bottles and fishing gear) and microplastics (small plastic particles generally five millimeters or less in size) persist in the marine environment and result in harmful effects on marine life and biodiversity, as well as negative impacts on human health and on activities such as tourism, fishery, and shipping.

The action plan provides IMO with a mechanism to identify specific outcomes, and actions to achieve these outcomes, in a way that is meaningful and measurable. The concrete measures and details will be further considered by MEPC 74, said IMO.

Specific identified measures include the following: make a proposed study on marine plastic litter from ships; look into the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities; consider making marking of fishing gear mandatory; promote reporting the loss of fishing gear; and facilitate the delivery of retrieved fishing gear to shore facilities.

Others are to review provisions on the training of fishing vessel personnel and familiarization of seafarers to ensure awareness of the impact of marine plastic litter; consider establishing a compulsory mechanism to declare loss of containers at sea and identify number of losses; enhance public awareness; and strengthen international cooperation.

The action plan will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed, IMO said.

In particular, on marine plastic litter generated from, and retrieved by, fishing vessels, IMO said identified measures include to consider making the IMO ship identification number mandatory for fishing vessels over a certain size; consider making marking of fishing gear with the IMO Ship Identification Number mandatory; further investigate logging of the identification number for each item of fishing gear on board a fishing vessel; remind states to collect information on any discharge or accidental loss of fishing gear; and consider developing best management practice to facilitate incentives for fishing vessels to retrieve derelict fishing gear and deliver it to port reception facilities.

Meanwhile, to cut shipping’s contribution to marine plastic litter, among measures suggested are to review the application of placards, garbage management plans, and garbage record-keeping in MARPOL Annex V; consider establishing a compulsory mechanism to declare loss of containers and identify number of losses; and consider ways to communicate location of containers lost overboard.

To improve the effectiveness of port reception and facilities and treatment in reducing marine plastic litter, steps include the following: consider requiring port reception facilities to provide for separate garbage collection for plastic waste from ships, including fishing gear to facilitate reuse or recycling; consider mechanisms to enhance the enforcement of MARPOL Annex V requirements for the delivery of garbage to reception facilities; and consider developing tools to support the implementation of cost frameworks associated with port reception facilities.

Others include to encourage member states to effectively implement their obligation to provide adequate facilities at ports and terminals for receiving garbage; and further consider the impact on small island developing states and on remote locations such as polar regions when planning for the disposal of waste to land-based facilities.

There were also identified measures to 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 implement targeted technical cooperation and capacity-building.

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