INTERTANKO moderates maritime session at Harvard Symposium on disaster prevention and mitigation

At an international conference on Disaster Prevention and Mitigation hosted by Harvard University’s School of Public Health, INTERTANKO’s Environment Manager, Tim Wilkins, moderated a session focusing on maritime issues and in particular the threat posed by the transfer of invasive species by shipping. 

This global conference aimed to develop strategies to minimise the human and financial loss of disasters by taking coordinated action across national and international entities, both government and industry. Five primary themes were identified as priorities for consideration: primary prevention; best practices on a global scale; the role of leadership; integration; publication, recommendations and policy.

Wilkins moderated a session focusing exclusively on the maritime industry, gauging the environmental and human health threat posed by maritime activities. Together with this, a separate workshop was convened to consider in more detail the possibility of shipping being a vector for invasive species and in particular human pathogens. While ballast water was seen as one element there was general agreement at the conference that a total examination of all facets of maritime transportation need to be considered, including small craft and hull fouling.

The maritime industry session saw the presentation of a paper by Georges Robichon of Fednav on his experience relative to ballast water management in the Great Lakes, and another by James Shine, Professor of Chemistry at the School of Public Health, Harvard University, who expanded upon the possible threats posed by the maritime industry.

While much of the overall event focused on natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami and hurricane Katrina, the human and industrial aspects of the event drew interest in the more general nature of shipping. It was recognised that the larger catastrophic events, such as oil spills, were on the decrease and that the industry now has a different, more holistic environmental challenge. In the maritime workshop discussion, there was an acknowledgement of the difficulty in dealing with each environmental concern in isolation, since one pollution solution often impacts another.

It was generally agreed that, as a global industry, the maritime sector requires a global vision in terms of policy and legislation, and that sustainability in policy making is vitally important to ensure that all aspects of pollution are considered as one issue.As the Conference was being concluded, Wilkins was called on to answer questions relating to the general functioning of the maritime sector in terms of environmental legislation and global regulation. For more information lease visit the Conference website: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/disasters/index.html 

Contact: Tim Wilkins