Shipping interests delaying environmental section of Polar Code: WWF

“The longer the polar regions are deprived of these protections, the greater the risk”


Members of the International Maritime Organization decided this week in London to postpone the development of the environmental section of the Polar Code on shipping until 2013.

The IMO, the United Nations body tasked with developing shipping regulations, took the move due to procedural objections by mostly non-polar states and the industry lobby, the World Wildlife Fund maintained in a Feb. 27 news release.

This is a major setback for polar environmental protection, the environmental group said, considering “how quickly the polar environment is changing and how sensitive these areas are.”

“A delay in protecting these fragile seas is bad enough,” said Dr. Simon Walmsley, WWF’s marine manager. “Of most concern is the attempt to altogether halt the development of rules to decrease the environmental impact from polar shipping.”

Lars Erik Mangset, Shipping and Climate Advisor at WWF Norway, said new rules could limit emissions and discharges of pollutants to both the air and water, lessen the impacts of climate change and reduce disturbance and strikes of marine mammals.

“The longer the polar regions are deprived of these protections, the greater the risk. It is unacceptable that these globally important areas are deprived of environmental protection and that commercial interests without a stake in the future of polar regions should override the development of environmental protection,” Mangset said.

This week, the IMO’s marine environment protection committee planned to consider a number of proposals for measures such as placing a levy on all greenhouse-gas emissions from international shipping or only on vessels that fail to meet energy efficiency requirements.

The committee was also to look at proposals for implementing new guidelines on the energy efficiency of ships.

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