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Seminars increase awareness of need to protect sea from pollution

Title: Seminars increase awareness of need to protect sea from pollution
Date: Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Publisher: Sun St. Kitts
Main source:

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Caribbean countries may be one step closer to having stricter pollution prevention measures in place to protect the Caribbean Sea from pollution by garbage from ships.

This was the feeling following the successful completion of five seminars aimed at the ratification and implementation of Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78). MARPOL Annex V provides guidelines and regulations for the discharge of garbage for ships at sea and in national ports.

The five-pollution prevention seminars took place from 12 — 22 Nov., on board the M/V Freewinds, during its port visits to St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts/Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. The Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Stevenson King opened the first of the seminars with an address outlining the importance of this initiative and commending those who facilitated the seminar. He concluded by stating, “We, the people, in as much as we continue to promote our country as paradise, must also ensure that in the promotion of paradise, we protect our environment, and not only the land, but also the sea.”
According to Commander Curtis Roach, International Maritime Organisation (IMO’s) regional maritime adviser for the Caribbean, the Caribbean Sea was designated a “special area” under Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 because of its high vulnerability to the impacts of pollution and its economic importance to the countries of the wider Caribbean.

When this designation enters into force, it would prohibit dumping of all garbage by ships into the Caribbean Sea.

Despite the effort by many countries to put required measures in place, Roach reported that “the majority of countries in the wider Caribbean region had not yet submitted information to IMO on the state of their respective ship-reception facilities.”

This information is required for IMO to make an assessment of the status of such facilities throughout the region, and to enable the special area designation to be formally put into effect and be enforced.

The seminars were organised by the Regional Activity Center/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center for the wider Caribbean region (RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe) based in Curacao in co-ordination with the M/V Freewinds.

Technical support was provided by experts from the IMO —Jeff Ramos and Herbert Silonero and the United Nations Environment Programme through its Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) officer Chris Corbin.

Thomas Smith, director of RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe, outlined that the seminars were very well supported with a total of over 850 participants attending in the five countries.

He outlined that, “the national seminars provided an excellent opportunity for national policy makers, environmental officials, maritime administrators, waste management authorities, non-governmental organisations, and local school students to discuss some of the current pollution challenges in the region and the threat of emerging issues such as the impact of invasive species to the Caribbean.”

Participants from governmental and civil society organisations identified several areas of concern including the need for improved solid and liquid waste management, the importance of public education and awareness of environmental issues, and implementing additional protective measures to reduce negative impacts from industrial activities such as quarrying and mining.

Workshop participants further recognised the increasing demands being placed on the region’s natural terrestrial and marine resources from tourism and considered that protection of these resources be given high national and regional priority in order to sustain future economic and social development.

Chris Corbin, UNEP’s programme officer for pollution prevention from the Jamaica-based office of the Caribbean Environment Programme was encouraged by the high level of political commitment expressed by senior ministers and policy makers in each of the countries to protect the coastal and marine environment from land and marine based sources of pollution.

He suggested “that taking a more collaborative approach to developing and implementing pollution control measures was critical at the national and regional levels.”

Participants agreed to adopt a more co-ordinated approach to implement national obligations of relevant multilateral environmental agreements and to address outstanding maritime and marine pollution control issues. According to Corbin, “countries of the region need to also give priority to signing and implementing other related regional environmental agreements such as the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution Protocol so that these conventions and agreements can be used as tools to further regional co-operation and at the same time address national priorities.”

It is expected that the outputs from these seminars will be fully disseminated to all the countries of the wider Caribbean region to enable them to take action to bring the MARPOL Annex V “Special Area” designation into force.

The continued national and regional media coverage that the five seminars received will be vital in ensuring that the wider Caribbean public is fully aware of the importance of marine environmental protection.

Mike Napier, captain of the MV Freewinds expressed his satisfaction with the results and outputs of the five national seminars which were “the culmination of months of collaborative effort between international, regional and local governmental agencies.”

He looked forward to this effort being the basis for continued co-operation between the maritime sector and environmental agencies throughout the region.