Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
It was reported by IMO on 13 March that a new set of publicly-available guidelines for monitoring plastics and microplastics in the oceans will help harmonize how scientists and others assess the scale of the marine plastic litter problem.
These guidelines* for the monitoring and assessment of plastic litter and microplastics in the ocean have been published by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a body that advises the United Nations system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.
Guidelines cover what to sample, how to sample it and how to record and assess plastics in the oceans and on the shoreline, including establishing baseline surveys. They include recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for establishing programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter, also referred to as plastic debris, in the ocean.
The guidelines include common definitions for categories of marine litter and plastics, examples of size and shape, how to design monitoring and assessment programmes, sampling and surveys. Sections cover citizen science programmes - which involve members of the public in marine litter surveying and research.
There are detailed chapters on monitoring sea surface floating plastic and plastic on the seafloor.
The full set of guidelines is available to download free-of-charge from the GESAMP website here:
In addition the guidelines can be used by national, inter-governmental and international organisations with responsibilities for managing the social, economic and ecological consequences of land- and sea-based human-activities on the marine environment.
Furthermore, these guidelines are a response to the hitherto lack of an internationally agreed methodology to report on the distribution and abundance of marine plastic litter and microplastics and directly contribute to the UN SDG Goal 14 on the oceans.
Specifically, the guidelines are a response to target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including plastic debris and nutrient pollution.
Of Guidelines for the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastic Litter in the Ocean the principal purpose of this report is to provide recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for the establishment of programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter, also referred to as plastic debris, in the ocean. The intention is to promote a more harmonised approach to the design of sampling programmes, the selection of appropriate indicators (i.e. type of sample), the collection of samples or observations, the characterisation of sampled material, dealing with uncertainties, data analysis and reporting the results and also to inform the establishment of national and regional field monitoring programmes.
The IMO has agreed to address maritime corruption by including this important issue in its work programme for the Facilitation Committee. The decision to include an anti-corruption agenda came at the latest meeting of the IMO’s Facilitation Committee (FAL 43 held 8-12 April) in response to a submission from Liberia, Marshall Islands, Norway, UK, US and Vanuatu. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) co-sponsored the submission along with a number of other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (illustrated) commented: ‘Corruption erodes trust in government and undermines the social contract. Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. This is a global issue but we all need to work to eradicate corrupt practices. We are pleased that the IMO will be working to address this important issue and we will support the member states in stamping out this scourge.’
A mass rescue operation – indeed, any incident beyond everyday capability – is a challenge for any State and any SAR organisation; but this is particularly so for small States and organisations, whose planning and response capabilities are naturally limited. A cruise ship accident in the Caribbean, for example, where many such ships trade, is a very rare event, but still a possible one. Rarity is part of the problem.
Thus the scene is set by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF see: www.international-maritime-rescue.org ).
This then begs a question
How do you prepare for such huge, once-in-a-career challenges?
In the UK IMRF Member the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), an executive agency of the UK Government, takes this question very seriously.