For every yacht owner, crew member, captain and hobby sailor, there’s an unmistakable draw to the ocean. Whether it’s messing about on the water in a small boat, enjoying time with family and friends on a sailing yacht or being taken care of by crew on a superyacht, there’s just something incredibly special about being out at sea.
When the sun is glistening on the water and the ocean breeze is gentle, there’s no better place to be. What’s better than watching the water and catching sight of whales and dolphins, or seeing Frigate Birds following your course? On a good day, the ocean is nature at her most generous. This is why protecting the environment is something that is – or should be – of huge importance to every yacht owner and operator.
This is why the theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is “Our Oceans, Our Future.”
June 8th is the annual day that aims to raise awareness about the importance of the world’s oceans. Today, there will be millions of people around the globe celebrating, with organisations and people attending events in more than 100 countries. The theme will help to put more focus on the vital role our oceans play in sustaining life on Earth. In particular, organisers and participants of the events will be helping to raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Plastic pollution is a huge issue, causing significant problems for wildlife. According to Plastic Oceans, 1 in 3 species of all marine mammals have been found entangled in marine litter and fish inhabiting the North Pacific ingest between 12,000 – 24,000 tons of plastic each year. The impact of plastic pollution is global, with economic, as well as environmental effects on countries and communities.
The scale of the problem is vast, with more than eight MILLION tons of plastic being dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Sources are diverse, with the range of plastic pollutants including bottles, trays and films used in food and beverage packaging, microbeads that are often found in cosmetics and hygiene products, other larger products that break down over time into microplastics and even Lego!
For the maritime industry, environmental matters are high on the agenda. Our oceans are used to transport many of our goods and services and are used in 90% of global trade, according to the International Maritime Organisation, (IMO). (Despite this, shipping is still reported to have the least impact on the environment, when compared with other modes of transport.)
The overall responsibility for the prevention of pollution in the world’s oceans sits with the IMO, which uses an array of conventions, treaties and agreements made by governments to protect our waters, each with its own acronym. To give you an idea of the priority given to ocean cleanliness; when it comes to the shipping regulations already adopted by the IMO, 21 out of 51 are directly –related to pollution and environmental matters.
Obviously, MARPOL is the key piece of regulation; this is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The MARPOL Convention addresses pollution caused to water and air from sources such as oil, noxious bulk liquids, harmful substances, sewage, garbage. The success in implementing MARPOL – which now covers almost 100% of all goods transported by sea, means that pollution in our oceans has greatly decreased in recent years, despite the massive growth in shipping operations. This has been made possible by international co-operation, advances in technology and changes to processes being adopted by owners and operators.
The many other environmental treaties governed by the IMO cover equipment, such as anti-fouling systems, ballast water and the recycling of decommissioned ships to a designated set of standards.
This gives a clear indication of the level of importance the issue of plastic pollution is given by the IMO and governments around the world. It’s sad to think that at one time, the oceans were considered to be a legitimate dumping ground for waste of all kinds, but thankfully things have now changed for the better.