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Regulations on the environmental impact of ships set new course

Environmental regulations on passenger shipping are complex and undergo regular changes. They are now aiming to reduce the sea and air pollution caused by ships.

SNCM ships use paints that do not contain biocides such as tributyltin (photo F. Dubessy)
SNCM ships use paints that do not contain biocides such as tributyltin (photo F. Dubessy)
In 1969, the damage caused two years earlier by the shipwrecked Torrey Canyon led around 30 countries to sign the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage.
Environmental regulations on maritime shipping, particularly of passengers, have tightened ever since, clamping down on all kinds of sea and air pollution.
A closer look, however, tells us that newer regulation is coming from a slightly different angle. "We've moved from an era where regulation aimed to reduce the risks of shipwrecking or collision, or to limit the consequences thereof, to one where it is important to reduce the hazardous waste caused by the normal use of a ship," explains the maritime safety department at the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
Since 1978, the MARPOL international convention has outlawed or tightly controlled oil, garbage and air pollution at sea.
Annex VI, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, sets strict limits on the emission of gases that contribute to acid rain, to a build-up of PCBs and heavy metals in the food chain, to the hole in the ozone layer or to reduced oxygen levels in inland and coastal waters.

Different rules for different ships

Pollution from ships in ports is a major concern (photo NBC)
Pollution from ships in ports is a major concern (photo NBC)
The regulations do not concern all ships, and there are different rules for different kinds of vessel.
International conventions such as MARPOL, which were drawn up by the International Maritime Organization, apply only to ships involved in international passenger shipping.
Other routes are governed by national (e.g. Melbourne to Tasmania) or EU regulations (where ships travel within an EU member state, e.g. Marseilles to Corsica).
There are two further distinctions.
The newly adopted rules distinguish ships by when they entered into service. Annex VI of MARPOL thus requires only new ships, and those with new engines, to present certificates of compliance with regulations on air pollution.
MARPOL also requires a sharper reduction in sulphur emission levels for ships in so-called Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs), such as the English Channel and the North Sea.
The sheer number of rules, and their confusing nature, sometimes causes concern. Shipowners, for example, fear that using desulphurised fuel will increase bunker costs by up to 40%.
But these rules also force people to take the initiative and transform environmental excellence into cost savings. Yannick Casteur, the director of the port of Toulon, through which 1.5 million passengers pass every year, is considering switching to an energy source that emits less CO2, such as LNG or shorepower.

version française

Mathieu Bouchard

Saturday, September 29th 2012

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