IMO, as the specialized agency of the United Nations with the responsibility for creating the industry's regulatory framework governing such matters, has been both a focal point and a driving force to regulate oil pollution, the use of harmful anti-fouling paint on ships' hulls, preparedness, response and co-operation in tackling pollution from oil and from hazardous and noxious substances; It also regulates the right of States to intervene on the high seas to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to their coastlines from pollution following a maritime casualty. IMO has also put in place a series of measures designed to ensure that the victims of pollution incidents can be financially compensated.
The MARPOL Convention` remains the most important international treaty instrument covering the prevention of pollution by ships. It sets out regulations dealing with pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; by sewage; by garbage; and with the prevention of air pollution from ships.
The issue of ship recycling has also become a growing concern, not only from the environmental point of view but also with regard to the occupational health and safety of workers in that industry.
Many reductions have been achieved by addressing the technical, operational and human-element issues and are all the more noteworthy when compared with the significant growth in the world’s shipping industry – both the size of the world fleet and the distances that it travels. It has also been pressing hard to ensure that shore-based facilities keep up with international regulatory requirements, so that ships are not left in the position of being unable to operate in full compliance due to a lack of shore facilities.
Aside from MARPOL, IMO’s environmental work in recent years has covered a remarkably broad canvas, embracing everything, from the management of ships’ ballast water and the removal of shipwrecks from the seabed to the prohibition of certain toxic substances in ships’ anti-fouling systems. Other IMO Conventions deal with issues such as preparedness, response and co-operation in tackling pollution from oil and from hazardous and noxious substances; the right of States to intervene on the high seas to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to their coastlines or related interests from pollution following a maritime casualty; and the safe and environmentally-friendly recycling of ships that have reached the end of their lifetimes. Furthermore, IMO has developed a comprehensive range of measures aimed at ensuring that proper compensation is available for the victims of marine pollution incidents involving ships.
The Organization is also tackling potentially “new” inputs that ships may have on marine biodiversity, such as the transfer of invasive species through ships’ biofouling; or the effects of underwater noise from ships on living sea creatures; and even ship strikes on cetaceans. And it is only right that we should always be thinking proactively about improving shipping’s environmental performance and about how to make it part of the solution to any adverse impacts that may be indentified in the future.