The damaging build-up of plastic litter in the oceans
is increasingly recognised as a major threat to the global environment.
Harrowing images of marine wildlife being trapped by plastic litter, or even
ingesting it, are becoming tragically familiar.
IMO’s long track record of engagement in the fight
against this insidious form of pollution was reinforced last year, when its
governing Assembly of Member States placed the issue of marine plastic litter
from shipping on the agenda of its leading environmental technical body, the
Marine Environment Protection Committee. IMO Member Governments have been
invited to submit concrete proposals about developing an action plan on the
subject to the Committee’s next meeting, in October.
This week (29-31 May) IMO is participating in the Ad
Hoc Open Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics at the UN
Environment headquarters in Nairobi. This group was established by the United
Nations Environment Assembly to further examine the barriers to, and options
for, combating marine plastic litter and microplastics from all sources,
especially land-based sources.
Discharging plastics and other forms of litter into
the sea from ships has actually been banned by an IMO regulation, legally
binding on all ships, for some 30 years. The so-called MARPOL Annex V entered
into force internationally in 1988 and, today, more than 150 countries have
signed up to it.
In addition, countries party to another IMO instrument
prohibiting dumping at sea (the London Convention/Protocol) earlier this year
raised concerns regarding the disposal of fibreglass reinforced plastic vessels