International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has welcomed the recently-published report of the Global Ocean Commission (GOC), From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean, and its call for enhanced action at all levels to mitigate the threats to the global oceans described in the report.
In a letter to the co-chairs of the Global Ocean Commission (Mr. José María Figueres, Mr. Trevor Manuel and Mr. David Miliband), Mr. Sekimizu noted that, as the United Nations specialized agency dedicated to sustainable uses of the world’s oceans through safe, secure, clean ships, IMO plays a key role in advancing the critically important agenda carried forward in the report and has adopted key treaties addressing several of the outlined threats.
Mr. Sekimizu highlighted IMO’s active role in addressing many of the issues raised in the GOC report, noting also that IMO is working actively through several existing coordination mechanisms – such as UN Oceans, the Global Partnership for Oceans, and the Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) – to ensure that joint efforts are maximized and duplication reduced.
“In my view, thoughtful development of ocean regulations, coupled with early entry into force, effective implementation, stringent compliance oversight and vigorous enforcement of international standards are the best ways to protect and sustain the precious marine environment and its resources. Through the application of these principles, for example, the average number of large oil spills (>700 tonnes) during the 2000s was just an eighth of that during the 1970s. This dramatic reduction has been due to the combined efforts of IMO, through its Member Governments and the oil/shipping industries to improve safety and pollution prevention,” Mr. Sekimizu said.
In other examples of IMO’s commitment and ongoing work to address the challenges outlined in the GOC report, Mr. Sekimizu referred to IMO’s work to support sustainable development, including pollution reduction through implementation of the MARPOL Convention and IMO’s other multilateral environmental agreements, in tandem with capacity-building efforts.
With regard to sustainable use of the oceans, particularly fishing, Mr. Sekimizu referred to IMO’s work with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as the IMO Cape Town agreement of 2012, aimed at addressing fishing vessel safety.
Regarding the need to strengthen the governance of the high seas through promoting care and recovery, Mr. Sekimizu pointed to IMO’s lead role in the development of ecosystem-based management tools applicable to all marine areas and the designation to date of fourteen Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, and the adoption of various special areas under MARPOL addressing operational discharges from shipping. Furthermore, IMO has established multiple traffic separation schemes and other ship routeing systems in major congested shipping areas in the world.
With respect to the report’s Proposal 5 (Plastics – Keeping them out of the Ocean), Annex V of IMO’s MARPOL treaty prohibits the discharge of plastics from ships. The key issue is effective implementation, Mr. Sekimizu noted.
IMO’s Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (The MODU Code) provides international (non-binding) standards in support of the implementation of the GOC report Proposal 6 (Offshore Oil and Gas – Establishing binding international safety standards and liability). Meanwhile, in partnership with the oil and shipping industry, IMO has been working since 1996, within the framework of its International Convention of Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990, to enhance oil preparedness and response capacity for marine spills at priority locations around the world, irrespective of whether the spill originates from a ship, an oil handling facility or an offshore unit.
Addressing the co-chairs, Mr. Sekimizu said, “There is no question that your important work will spur meaningful progress in the common quest to preserve and protect our oceans, while ensuring their sustainable use as an irreplaceable mode of transportation, communication, industry and livelihood. Thank you again for producing this important report, and I look forward, along with my sister agencies in the UN system and our Member States, to meeting the challenges ahead.
The full text of Secretary-General Sekimizu’s letter to the Global Ocean Commission co-chairs can be downloaded here.