UN raises the alarm over risks emissions pose to marine life

Shipping & Logistics

UN raises the alarm over risks emissions pose to marine life

Sulphur emissions lead to acid rain which can harm crops, forests and aquatic animals. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has raised concerned over increasing ship pollution in the sea, putting marine life at heightened risk.

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) cited marine litter and fuel pollution as major threats to survival of aquatic life.

IMO, a United Nations agency, said marine pollution by fishing vessels and ships has been on the increase globally, and urgently called for implementation of the IMO Action Plans adopted by State ports to address marine plastic litter and fuel emissions from ships.

A new regulation that stipulates use of low sulphur in fuel by ships is set to start in January next year. Experts say the new rule must be strictly enforced in order to curb marine pollution.

“We are asking all the ships to comply with the 0.5 per cent m/m (mass by mass) which will come into effect from January 2020 and the move is expected to reduce amount of sulphur oxide emitted by ships,” said IMO technical officer Roel Hoenders.


Speaking during regional workshop on International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Mr Hoenders encouraged port states to fulfill their treaty obligations on providing adequate port reception facilities.

Port reception facilities are set up by international shipping ports to collect residues, oily mixtures, and garbage generated from a vessel to avoid contaminants generated by ships from being discharged directly to the ocean.

Mr Hoenders said the new regulations aims at zero tolerance of illegal discharge from ships and fishing vessels.

With the increasing ship traffic at Mombasa port, controlling emissions is a critical matter and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has said it has instituted measures to comply with the policy.

IMO regulations to reduce sulphur oxide emissions from ships first came into force in 2005, under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

Limiting sulphur emission by ships will improve air quality and protect the environment as sulphur oxide is harmful to humans and marine ecosystem.

Sulphur emissions cause respiratory problems and lung diseases and once released into the atmosphere, they can lead to acid rain which can harm crops, forests and aquatic animals. The emissions also contribute to acidification of oceans.

During a recent training which brought together participants from 13 African countries, IMO Eastern and Southern Africa regional coordinator Dave Muli said there is need to contain plastic pollution from ships and fishing vessels in the Ocean.

“Plastic and old fishing nets thrown in the ocean are harmful to marine life and biodiversity and we target zero plastic pollution by 2025. This can only be achieved through port states cooperation,” said Mr Muli.

Some scientists have warned that by 2050 the quantity of plastics in the oceans will outweigh fish.

The three-day training workshop at Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotel and Spa in Mombasa was organised by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and was attended by representatives from Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania.

KMA Director General George Nyamoko Okongo said he would work closely with the KPA management to ensure the low sulphur regulations are fully implemented starting early next year.

“We shall ensure all ships under Kenyan flag comply with all international environmental laws and regulations to reduce fuel emissions and litter dumping in the ocean and with the new multi-agency police team — Kenya Coast Guards Service (KCGS) — we hope to achieve that,” said Mr Nyamoko.

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