The IMO has pledged to address the significant problem posed by plastics to the marine environment, with the adoption of an action plan which aims to enhance existing regulations and introduce new supporting measures to reduce marine plastic litter from ships.
The plan was adopted on October 26 by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
Dumping plastics into the sea is already prohibited under MARPOL regulations, which also oblige governments to ensure adequate port reception facilities to receive ship waste. Under the London Convention and Protocol on the dumping of wastes at sea, only permitted materials can be dumped and this waste – such as from dredging – has to be fully assessed to ensure it does not contain harmful materials like plastics.
However, studies demonstrate that despite the existing regulatory framework to prevent marine plastic litter from ships, discharges into the sea continue to occur. Recognising that more needs to be done, IMO Member States agreed on actions to be completed by 2025, which relate to all ships, including fishing vessels.
Specific identified measures include:
• a proposed study on marine plastic litter from ships;
• looking into the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities;
• consideration of making marking of fishing gear mandatory, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
• promoting the reporting of the loss of fishing gear;
• facilitating the delivery of retrieved fishing gear to shore facilities;
• reviewing provisions related to the training of fishing vessel personnel and familiarization of seafarers to ensure awareness of the impact of marine plastic litter;
• consideration of the establishment of a compulsory mechanism to declare loss of containers at sea and identify number of losses;
• enhancing public awareness; and
• strengthening international cooperation, in particular FAO and UN Environment.
The details will be further considered by MEPC 74. The action plan supports IMO’s commitment to meeting the targets set in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.”
The IMO will continue to work with UN partners including: the FAO through the Joint FAO/IMO Ad Hoc Working Group on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and related matters; the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP); the UN Environment-managed Global Partnership on Marine Litter; the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Environment Assembly.