Dirty shipping interests move to scupper IMO plans to protect marine environment

Press release - 29 March, 2004
Greenpeace today called upon member states of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to stand firm and resist a move by the Russian Federation, Panama and Liberia intended to block a proposal to protect vulnerable habitats in the Baltic Sea from the threats posed by shipping.

This week the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee will consider conferring protected status to the Baltic Sea as well as around the Canary Islands and the Galapagos, by declaring them Particular Sensitive Seas Areas (PSSAs).  The PSSA status enables the re-routing of ship traffic away from sensitive marine habitats as well as other measures to regulating shipping.

The Russian Federation is intending to derail the process of protecting the Baltic by calling for a review of the guidelines for designating PSSAs.  It is aided by the world's two biggest flag of convenience states - Panama and Liberia, and a number of industry bodies (1) which between them represent a large proportion of the world's sub-standard single-hulled tankers.

"The proposed review is a ploy which will only protect dirty shipping interests and put sensitive marine environments at risk," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner.

The area of the Baltic being proposed as a PSSA is particularly sensitive because of its unique hydrological conditions, low salinity and semi-enclosed nature and is under threat from extremely dense shipping traffic constantly crowing due to increasing exports of Russian oil.  Greenpeace has campaigned for the designation of the Baltic as a PSSA for the last two and a half years.  

With the PSSA, a number of other measures such as compulsory traffic surveillance, routing systems, escort and escort tugs, pilotage and areas to be avoided can be considered by the IMO in order to increase the safety of shipping in the Baltic.  Greenpeace is also calling for better regulation of shipping by coastal authorities, high quality ship construction, high quality of crews as well as improved liability regime to increase the safety of shipping.

Notes: (1)  Shipping industry bodies supporting the review of the Baltic PSSA guidelines include BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, OCIMF and the International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA).