LoA signing ceremony on 9 October 2019 at the IMO Headquarters in London, United Kingdom. Ms.Tatjana Hama, representing the UNEP/MAP Coordinator, and Mr. Hiroyuki Yamada, Director of the IMO Marine Environment Division © Photo credits: IMO
The UNEP/MAP– Barcelona Convention Secretariat signed on 9 October 2019 a Letter of Agreement (LoA) with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that provides a new framework of cooperation on issues pertaining to the dumping of wastes.
The signing ceremony took place in the context of the 41st Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the 14th Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol (London, UK, 7-11 October 2019).
The LoA builds on the expertise accumulated by the two institutions in tackling pollution caused by dumping. It is expected to stimulate collaboration within the respective mandates of UNEP/MAP and IMO.
As a UN specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. IMO hosts the Secretariat for the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention) and the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Protocol).
In her statement during the ceremony in London, Ms. Tatjana Hema, UNEP/MAP Deputy Coordinator, underscored the impact that the adoption of the Barcelona Convention and the Dumping Protocol have had in the Mediterranean. “National implementation reports gathered since 2003 show that all Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention have put in place legal frameworks and institutional arrangements for implementing the Dumping Protocol”.
Ms. Hema also acknowledged that “there is still work to be done to enhance the overall level of implementation of the Dumping Protocol”, adding that “enhancing cooperation and collaboration among multilateral environmental agreement is at the heart of the Mediterranean Action Plan activities”. “The present Letter of Agreement with the International Maritime Organization, London Convention/London Protocol materializes this approach of building up robust synergies among the two organizations to ensure maximum coherence, efficiency and effectiveness in the field of dumping”, she concluded.
The Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft was adopted in 1976. It was significantly amended in 1995, at the same time as the Barcelona Convention. The new Protocol entitled “Protocol for the Prevention and Elimination of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft or Incineration at Sea” constitutes the legal instrument underpinning ongoing efforts by UNEP/MAP and the Contracting Parties to address this important issue in the Mediterranean.
The amendment of the Protocol in 1995 notably marked a significant change of focus from a “black list” of materials and substances for which dumping is forbidden to a general prohibition of dumping in the Mediterranean. Under the new provisions, special permits must be obtained for the dumping of dredged material; fish wastes or organic materials resulting from the processing of fish and other marine organisms; vessels (until 31 December 2000), platforms or other man-made structures at sea; and inert uncontaminated geological materials the chemicals constituents of which are unlikely to be released into the marine environment.
The Dumping Protocol of the Barcelona Convention is currently one ratification away from entering into force. So far, 15 Mediterranean Countries and the European Community have accepted the amendments, namely Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
The Letter of Agreement outlines several overarching areas of cooperation, including capacity-building aimed at Contracting Parties in the fields of data management and monitoring; technical guidelines enabling the implementation of both legal frameworks and joint activities on matters of common interest, such as marine litter and microplastics.
Tighter cooperation between UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention Secretariat and IMO will translate into consistent reporting under the Barcelona and the London Conventions by the Contracting Parties. Benefits will include more reliable data and information streams that will contribute to a better understanding of the status of implementation and the filling of national capacity gaps by IMO and UNEP/MAP technical teams.
The Secretariats of the Barcelona and London Conventions are discussing steps for the implementation of the Letter of Agreement. These could include the development of a single reporting system for Contracting Parties covering obligations under both regimes where applicable; devising and pursuing a joint strategy to promote ratification of the relevant instruments; organizing joint national capacity-building activities on monitoring related to dumping, as part of the implementation of the UNEP/MAP Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP); and exploring other issues where the two Conventions’ mandates would benefit from a strong collaboration.