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International Maritime Policy

Importance of international maritime policy has been increasing in the following decades
and in the century we are witnessing it became vitally alerted, as emerged challenges and
incidents have proven that existing policies are either inefficient or they need more
effective implementation.
Accidents of oil tankers starting to occur from 1967 changed the inactive attitude of
international governors and focused they attention to the urgent need for relevant
policies. The first maritime treaties date back to the 19th century; then, the Titanic
disaster of 1912 gave rise to the first international safety of life at sea - SOLAS -
convention. However before 1960 there was little concern with regards of pollution of the

Background (Case Study embodied)

On 18 March, 1967 the “Torrey Canyon” (first of the big supertankers, carrying 120,000
tons of oil) struck Pollard's Rock in the Seven Stones reef between the Sicily Isles and
Land's End, England. The oil leaked from the ship (31,000,000 gallons) and spread along
the sea between England and France, killing most of the marine life it touched along the
whole of the south coast of Britain and the Normandy shores of France, and blighting the
region for many years thereafter.
The “Torrey Canyon” was the first major oil spill; back to that times world had witnessed
disastrous results: some 50 miles of French and 120 miles of Cornish coast were
contaminated. Around 15,000 sea birds were killed, along with huge numbers of marine
organisms. The disaster led to many changes in international regulations.

However, the incident was followed by other cases such as Amico Cadiz off Brittany I
1978, Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 and Sea Empires off south-west Wales in 1966, all of
which ran around spilling thousands of tons of oil into the sea. These and many other
instances have over the past three decades alerted policy-makers, legislators and public
generally to the growing and vital problem of marine pollution.

Policy Regulatory Organizations

As the need for establishing maritime policy as distinguished branch of regulatory law has
emerged, there also emerged need for specialized agency which would specifically deal
with such matters. International Maritime Organization, (UN agency) develops and adopts
global regulations on safety, security and the prevention and control of marine pollution.
IMO’s 169 Members are responsible for implementing and enforcing the regulations. IMO’s
vision is to reduce to the possible minimum all adverse environmental impacts from ships.

The Organization, soon after it began functioning in 1959, assumed responsibility for
pollution issues and has adopted a wide range of policies to prevent and control marine

pollution. From 51 treaties that IMO has introduced, 21 are directly related to

Relevant Conventions
There are several most important conventions relating to and regulating marine pollution
policies. In 1973, IMO adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution
from Ships, now known universally as MARPOL, which has been amended several times.
The MARPOL Convention addresses different types of marine pollution. MARPOL has
greatly contributed to a significant decrease in pollution from international shipping and
applies to99% otherworld’s merchant tonnage.

Another important treaty series is so called “London Convention”- (Convention on the

Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972), was one of
the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities and
has been in force since 1975. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources
of marine pollution and to take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the sea by
dumping of wastes. Currently, 86 States are Parties to this Convention. In 1996, the
"London Protocol" modernized and replaced the Convention (entered into force-
March2006, 37 Parties).

Enumerated conventions above are probably most important ones of numerous existing
treaties regulating marine pollution and related policies. Along with international and
regional organizations such as European Maritime Safety Agency, IMO, International
Tribunal for The Law of The Sea, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and others,
governments strive to adopt their legislations in order to ensure the least extent of marine

Case Study
However, incident of Prestige occurring in 2002 has once more alerted the issue of
maritime pollution and existing relevant policies, leaving the topic open for discussion,
criticism and development. On November 13, 2002, the prestige owned by a Liberian
company and carrying 77 00 tones of heavy fuel oil, sprang a leak off the coast of Galicia.
It broke apart and sank 270 km off the Spanish coast. Thousands of tones of heavy fuel oil
spilled into the sea, polluting at first the Galician coastline, and consequently shores of
Austria, Cantabria, Spain and even France. The results of oil spoil were disastrous.

Current State
The latest incidents (which tended to increase in number over the past 50 years), alerted
the need to improve existing policies regarding marine pollution. IMO in cooperation with
different international and regional organizations, notably with European Maritime Safety

Agency, has outlined main challenges and future prospects for developing maritime
pollution policies.
Highlights of current policies regarding combating marine pollution include:

 Strengthening port State control

 Improving the enforcement of EU maritime safety rules
 Establishing of an information system to improve the monitoring of traffic
 Improve compensation for victims of oil spoils
 Establishing “black list” of ships which would have been banned (single-hull tankers
most importantly)
 Assessing and auditing classification societies
*Notably, cooperation with oil industry companies has been prioritized.

Final Judgment
General regulations concerning marine environment protection are embodied in central
conventions (such as MARPOL, London Convention etc). Policies related to marine
environment protection are regulated in accordance with conventions; although priorities
tend to shift from time to time. To ensure that existing policies meet newly emerged
challenges or needs, conventions are amended. However it’s difficult to identify
internationally agreed marine environment protection policy, as far as there exist different
needs and challenges regionally. To illustrate the case more clearly, EU region has its
priorities which might be in some respect different from needs and priorities of US marine
region. However, there are policies which are prioritized and agreed upon by all states no
matter the region they are located in. Once again, such policies are embodied in
international or regional conventions, bilateral or multilateral treaties and international
agreements. IMO, along with partner organizations ensures to establish common ground
for states to identify timely emerging or possible challenges, opportunities and establish
relevant policies, as well as means of their effective accomplishment. Currently we
witness important shift of challenges, priorities and policies.

Reference List
International Maritime Organization

R. Petrow, 1968, In the wake of the Torrey Canyon. (New York: David Mackay Co, Inc.)
Expert Antonio Sandoval Rey, Terranova interpretación y Gestión Ambiental S.L.
International Maritime Policy, UK
Greenwich Maritime Institute

The Law of the Sea (third edition), R. R. Churchill and A. V. Lowe, Juris Publishing

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