Seven ASEAN countries have formally launched an ambitious initiative aimed at improving the environmental health of the seas in the region. This is through the implementation of key International Maritime Organization (IMO) marine environment protection treaties.
Maritime administrations of ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) met in Bali, Indonesia recently. They kick-started the “Marine Environment Protection for Southeast Asia Seas (MEPSEAS) Project”.
IMO is implementing the project, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group (ASEAN MTWG), the highest regional policy making body dealing with maritime matters in the region, will act as the advisory body for the MEPSEAS project.
The four-year MEPSEAS project (2018-2021) will focus on enhancing the countries’ capacity to implement a number of high-priority treaties. These will include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); the Anti-Fouling Systems Convention; the London dumping of wastes at sea convention and protocol; and the Ballast Water Management Convention.
The meeting, supported by IMO, was also attended by project strategic partners (Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA); Women in Maritime Asia (WIMA ASIA); and the Tokyo MOU regional Port State Control (PSC) organization; non-beneficiary partner countries, including Singapore; and shipping industry representatives.
Tackling risks the marine environment faced
R. Agus H. Purnomo, Director General for Sea Transportation under Ministry of Transportation, Government of Republic of Indonesia opened the meeting. He said the MEPSEAS project provided an opportunity for the countries to tackle the risks the marine environment faced. Moreover, the countries could also show their support for sustainable growth in the maritime sector.
“We should work together to ensure a continued and strengthened contribution towards a green economy and growth and to protect our marine environment in a sustainable manner. Our active involvement through the MEPSEAS project will prove that we have the same commitment to protect our marine environment,” Purnomo said.
Additionally, the meeting also agreed on a Project Work Plan and regional coordination and information sharing arrangements.
Promoting national port developments
The MEPSEAS project will promote national legal and policy developments and related capacity building in port. Hence, it will also flag state inspections to support enforcement of the selected Conventions.
The Project is also expected to support specific port biological baseline survey training, the Green Shipping-Green Port-Green Shipyards (GGG) initiative of the Philippines and the holding of a regional maritime technology conference, among other activities.
Moreover, the MEPSEAS project will build on a previous IMO-Norad foundation project. This project had led to the six countries concerned making substantial progress in implementing or acceding to IMO environmental treaties. The six countries are Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The latest country to join the project is Myanmar, which aims to initiate actions to accede to and implement two marine environmental Conventions in the near future.
For countries which have acceded to the relevant treaties, the new MEPSEAS project will allow them to focus on effective implementation.
Jose Matheickal, Deputy Director (Major Projects) of IMO said the MEPSEAS project is a clear demonstration of the continued commitment of the ASEAN countries. Above all, they wanted to move towards a sustainable maritime transport system. Certainly, these countries wanted to address the significant marine environmental issues.
“The IMO-Norad foundation project was a remarkable success and IMO is once again very proud to partner with Norad, the ASEAN countries and all the strategic partners to build on the foundation project in a regionally-coordinated way,” Matheickal said.