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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Anti-fouling foot-dragging not acceptable

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, was adopted on 5 October 2001. But to date only 17 out of 166 IMO member states have ratified the Convention. The IMO Secretariat has recently submitted a paper strongly urging member states to ratify the Convention; but such slow ratification of important conventions gets the IMO a bad name. Those responsible environmental NGOs who have been demanding action are right to do so. INTERTANKO welcomes their support.


The shipping industry and the paints industry support the Convention, which bans tribuyltin (TBT) from marine paints. Many leading paint manufacturers stopped producing TBT-based paint systems three years ago and have been marketing alternatives. Most shipbuilders and shiprepair yards ban TBT paints – though not all. But TBT-based coatings had already been stockpiled and some people continue to buy them, using non-ratification of the Convention to salve their consciences.


Plenty of responsible shipowners have been proactively abiding by the Convention’s requirements since the 2003 target date - irrespective of non-ratification. But the laudable actions of these responsible owners are jeopardised by those who are still trading their ships with TBT paint systems - because the Convention has not been ratified. Not only are TBT systems cheaper, but the fact that they are still in use takes away from the beneficial effect on the environment of all those who have changed their ways. Again the good suffer because others are able escape the “law” which has been laid down but not ratified and therefore still not entered into force.


This is a situation where inaction prompts reaction. From 1st January 2008, European Union legislation bans the use of TBT paints on EU flagged vessels, and any ship using TBT paint systems, regardless of its flag, will be barred from EU ports. However the EU is watching very closely the situation at the IMO. The EU states have their directive, but, embarrassingly, the majority have not yet signed up to the international convention. They are also worried about how they are going to enforce their directive in practice on ships that are trading worldwide. Paint sampling has never been part of port state control officers’ duties.


The EU would like to see ratification at the IMO, and entry into force, of the international convention. So would the shipping industry. And so would our rapidly changing world where society’s expectations are moving ahead apace and will quite simply no longer accept the horrible effects of TBT on shellfish and on other marine life. This foot dragging by IMO member states is ruining all the efforts of those responsible and pro-active members of the shipping industry who have already taken action.


Contact: Bill Box