Intertanko's Sustainable Challenge

Environmental Sustainable Development. It's a concept that has sparked a multitude of papers, essays and analysis, yet the notion of sustainable development has still to be fully recognized by the maritime world. Or has it?

Invasive species, harmful anti-fouling paints and the dismantling of ships on the beaches of developing countries are just a part of a long list of environmental concerns that the maritime world is faced with. What is not illustrated by such a list is the interaction of each of the areas of concern when it comes to resolving their environmental impacts.

One issue cannot be resolved without the consideration of the potential implication to all the other issues.

In addition, the long term benefits and impacts of currently proposed solutions must be taken into account if a permanent elimination of environmental damage is to be realized.

At the sharp end of implementing the solutions to these environmental concerns are the ship owners.

INTERTANKO's members have been among the first to realize the need for an integrated approach to all environmental issues, although it has not been a simple and straight forward process.

Environment, Development and the Shipping Industry High on INTERTANKO's Environmental Agenda is the prevention of the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms via ship's ballast water. The solution in terms of on-board treatment still evades us, but this has not deterred INTERTANKO from pressing forward in the search for answers. Through its Environmental Committee, INTERTANKO is working simultaneously to find both regulatory and technical solutions and is actively participating in two projects addressing these aspects of the issue, namely GloBallast (The Global Ballast Water Management Program) and (MARTOB) On Board Treatment of Ballast Water. In regulatory terms the only effective solution is an international one as this problem is one owing to both the global envi- ronmental impact and the world wide nature of shipping.

INTERTANKO is also concentrating efforts in the I MO for the completion of a ballast water Convention by 2003. However there is a vast number of matters to be resolved before a workable Convention can be tabled for ratification.

In highlighting the need to approach these issues with the notion of sustainability in mind, and to ensure that one solution does not become a future problem, some aspects of the ballast water Convention as proposed will need re-consideration. Take for example the fact that the majority of treatment solutions will consume energy over and above that required under normal ballast operations. Coupled with the popular proposal to enforce mandatory treatment of ballast water in all circumstances we see a conflict of concerns. On the one hand there is the precautionary approach to minimizing the risk of invasive species while on the other hand there is the unnecessary expenditure of energy, which may cause undue atmospheric pollution.

It has fallen upon INTERTANKO and its contemporaries to fight the cause for a more broad based approach to these issues. In this case it is the inclusion of exemptions from carrying out ballast treatment when circumstances mean that the risk of transferring organisms is negligible.

It has taken 10 years at the IMO to bring to fruition the ban on tin-based anti-fouling paints used on ships' hulls with much of the work being carried out in a room next to the one used to develop the ballast water Convention. Ironically, one of the concerns raised by INTERTANKO during the development of the Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems (AFS) was the lack of effective alternatives to tinbased anti-fouling. Regardless of this aspect and the potential to actually increase the likelihood of transferring invasive species across the world, only on the outside as opposed to inside the ships hull, the legislation was developed alongside the ballast water Convention that was aiming to eliminate this problem.

Once the AFS Convention comes into force it is likely that the banning of the currently used alternatives will get underway and so a gradual shift to less environmentally damaging anti-fouling systems is foreseeable. With this in mind INTERTANKO's Environmental Committee is ensuring information on the advances in non-toxic anti-fouling systems is disseminated to INTERTANKO's members. In the long-term this is the ultimate, and indeed environmentally sustainable solution to the problem. A move in this direction is encouraged by INTERTANKO and with positive results for non-toxic paints in the high-speed craft sector it is now only a matter of time before the technology can be advanced to a level by which the remainder of the shipping industry can benefit.

Not only does the antifouling system on a ship have a finite life but the ship itself also has a limited life span. In the most commonly used breaking yards one of the concerns during the recycling of ships today is the input of these toxic paints into the coastal environment. The move towards low-toxicity and even non-toxic anti-fouling will also see this problem resolved in the long term.

Ship recycling however is one of the best examples of sustainable development within the shipping industry. The fact that more than 95 percent of a ship is re-used and/or recycled is the very embodiment of the sustainable development concept. However, to achieve environmental sustainability we need to take this one step further, or at least take on board the approach being made by the shipping sector in promoting the use of non-toxic substances on ships right from the new building stage. The use of a hazardous materials inventory and the continual progression towards less toxic substances on-board. as per the Industry Code of Practice on Ship Recycling, will remove both environmental and social problems currently associated with the ship recycling industry. As the issue, which is most in line with sustainability, it is this problem that can, if properly approached, be the ultimate example of shipping-embraced sustainable development.

Communicating Sustainability Sustainable development is a well known concept in the modern world and to most people a house-hold phrase. In INTERTANKO it is a reality and an accepted way of thinking. The challenge for INTERTANKO is to convince the regulators and other stakeholders of the significance of the industry's achievements by using the sustainable development terminology. If it can be accepted that the solutions and theories coming from the owners is in line with sustainable development then it is an effective way in which to aid legislators, politicians and indeed the public to appreciate the value of such pro-activity and forward thinking.

Circle 1 on Reader Service Card

Other stories from June 2002 issue


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First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.