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World Maritime Day 2023: MARPOL Turns 50!

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 931
September 28, 2023

Each year on the last Thursday of September, the maritime world marks World Maritime Day, an annual UN day of observance to raise awareness and highlight the importance of the maritime industry and its significant contribution to global trade, economy, and sustainable development.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the primary global treaty for the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from intentional, operational or accidental causes.

The MARPOL Convention was adopted at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on November 2, 1973, in response to several significant tanker accidents that resulted in devastating oil spills, causing severe environmental and economic damage—the most notable incident being the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1967.

The 1978 MARPOL Protocol absorbed the 1973 MARPOL Convention, and the combined instrument came into force on October 2, 1983. .

MARPOL consists of several annexes, each focusing on specific types of pollution and setting out regulations and standards to govern the handling, disposal, and prevention of pollution from ships. These annexes cover different aspects such as oil pollution prevention, noxious liquid substances, harmful substances in packaged forms, sewage, garbage, air pollution, and more. It has also been updated by amendments through the years.

To mark IMO’s dedication to the landmark treaty, the theme of World Maritime Day 2023 is “MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on”.

The IMO is urging Member States and the maritime industry to celebrate MARPOL’s positive impacts and work towards a sustainable future with enhanced environmental protection.

In his message on the World Maritime Theme for 2023, the IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, acknowledged the achievements already made in regulating to protect ocean health. However, he emphasized that the shipping industry still has significant work ahead.

“Shipping must embrace decarbonization, digitalization and innovative technology, including automation – while ensuring the human element is kept front and centre of the technological and green transition to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations. MARPOL has made a difference to shipping – and to the health of our ocean – and will continue to do so, as we look ahead to the next 50 years,” Secretary-General Lim said.

nited Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for “all-hands-on-deck” to realize a just and equitable transition to a greener, decarbonized shipping industry.

“Through the decades, MARPOL has made important contributions to protecting our planet and ocean by making shipping safer and cleaner. Looking ahead, let us build on the legacy of this convention and together steer towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for this critical industry – and a safer future for humanity,” said

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for “all-hands-on-deck” to realize a just and equitable transition to a greener, decarbonized shipping industry.

“Through the decades, MARPOL has made important contributions to protecting our planet and ocean by making shipping safer and cleaner. Looking ahead, let us build on the legacy of this convention and together steer towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for this critical industry – and a safer future for humanity,” he said.

The IMO-UNEP-Norway Innovation Forum 2023, taking place today at IMO Headquarters in London, focuses on promoting innovation for a zero- and low-emission future in the marine sector. Key topics include environmental performance, reducing plastic litter, supporting innovation in marine fuel production, decarbonization, green finance, and partnerships.

A number of organizations are marking the day by posting on social media using the hashtag #WorldMaritimeDay and tagging @IMOHQ on X (formerly Twitter), InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn).

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