MEPC 56 - update on anti-fouling systems

Last week we reported on the developments at the IMO's Marine Environmental Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 56) while awaiting final confirmation on some of the key issues which were still being discussed as we went to press.


There was a positive development relating to the final entry into force of the Anti-fouling Systems (AFS) Convention. With an entry into force requirement for 25 states representing 25% of the world's merchant tonnage, the AFS Convention has been a whisker away from entry into force for some months, having been signed by some 24 states equalling just over 16% of the world's tonnage. Panama, then, has stepped into the limelight as the state which will bring this Convention into force. It declared during the discussion that it was very near to signing the Convention and with the one state needed plus the added 21% of the world's tonnage, the Convention could enter into force in 12 months. However, we now have to sit and await the final declaration and signature to be made before the implementation date can be set.


Meanwhile, and shortly after the Panamanian announcement, the European Commission reminded the Member States present that it intended to implement the requirements of the AFS Convention, via its regulation EC 782/2003, and that it would not allow any ship with a tin-based antifouling system to enter any EU port or offshore terminal as of 1 January 2008.


On a related subject, the Committee agreed to take on a new work programme item - that of the problem of invasive species carried on the external surfaces of merchant vessels, termed 'biofouling'. The Committee agreed to a proposal submitted by New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Friends of the Earth and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and will now request that its Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) Sub-committee reviews the possibility of establishing guidelines for the industry on minimising the transfer of invasive species via biofouling.


Additionally this request was accompanied by a requirement to consider the AFS Convention and the Ballast Water Convention as interlinked issues relating to biofouling. Interestingly, the Committee also suggested that the BLG Sub-committee consider a Convention on the issue of biofouling. Perhaps indicative of a busy week, it is normally the practice of the IMO to consider how such a problem can be tackled practically before entering into a discussion on mandatory instruments.


Contact: Tim Wilkins