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MARPOL at 50 – a positive impact on the marine environment and challenges ahead

Image: IMO MARPOL-at-50.jpg
The 50th anniversary of landmark shipping regulation International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ship or MARPOL, being celebrated by the IMO on World Maritime Day.

At 50 years old MARPOL’s role combatting pollution from ships remains an ongoing and evolving task and the theme of World Maritime Day is “MARPOL at 50 – our commitment goes on”. 

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim noted in his World Maritime Day message that the voyage to an environmentally sound shipping industry started over 50 years ago. Over time the convention has been expanded and updated to meet the changes in industry and demands to protect the environment.

“MARPOL has had a positive impact on the marine environment. It has changed how ships – like this one – are designed and operated. The number of oil spills fell by over 90% over the last 50 years due to this and other targeted interventions,” Lim said.

Dry bulk shipowners association Intercargo took the opportunity to underscore its members commitment to protecting the environment. “Intercargo members are expected to fully comply with global environmental and anti-pollution regulations and go beyond them by adopting best practices and demonstrating operational excellence in setting the standards for industry-wide environmental protection,” it stated.

Looking ahead the IMO Sec-Gen noted that the commitment to protecting the environment continued to evolve and now encompassed decarbonisation.

“As we mark 50 years of MARPOL, I invite all stakeholders to promote further dialogue on the next phase of IMO's work to enhance sustainable shipping and protect our planet and oceans,” Lim said. 

“Shipping is evolving. Shipping must embrace decarbonisation, digitalisation and innovative technology, including automation – while ensuring the human element is kept front and centre of the technological and green transition to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations.”

It was a theme picked up on by Dubai-based bunkering company International Marine & Energy (IME). “As we embrace the digital age, technology and innovation play pivotal roles in achieving compliance with MARPOL's stringent standards,” commented Hamed Fathi, Director and Head of Legal for IME.

“The Middle East's commitment to the convention extends to the development and adoption of eco-friendly technologies, from cleaner fuels to emission-reduction measures, as well as the recent establishment of the UAE Maritime Decarbonisation Centre, the first-of-its-kind centre in the MENA region and only the fourth globally – setting an example for the global shipping community.”