PSSAs agreed at the IMO

During the meeting this week of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), three proposals for Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) were tabled; the Canary Islands, the Galapagos Archipelago and the Baltic Sea area. After due consideration by a technical group, all three proposals were approved in principle by the Committee.

Although the informal group that considered the proposals had returned to the main Committee with a checklist approving the designation of these areas as PSSAs, there was lengthy discussion on the last day of the Committee’s session as a number of states voiced their concern over the designation of the Baltic Sea as a PSSA.

What these discussions highlighted was that the guidelines themselves seem to be insufficient to deal adequately with the extensive areas of coastline and waterways of the states in question. This matter was raised in the industry paper to the session which requested a review of the Guidelines on the designation of PSSAs. It was agreed that, at its next meeting, the Committee should invite proposals as to how the Guidelines should be changed. A re-drafting of the Guidelines can then be commenced – providing sufficient guidance is received by the IMO during the intervening period.

Those states that proposed the PSSAs are now required to present to the IMO their proposals for Associated Protective Measures (APM). These are measures which, under the PSSA guidelines, require the relevant states to increase protection of the area being protected, using mechanisms such as vessel traffic separation schemes, areas to be avoided and compulsory pilotage. The proposing states are required to present their APM’s to the IMO’s Safety of Navigation sub-Committee (NAV) next year for further assessment.

Contact: Tim Wilkins