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Caribbean Countries Take Action to Protect the Marine Environment from Garbage
15/ 04/ 2010

Caribbean Countries Take Action to Protect the Marine Environment from GarbageThe discharge of garbage by ships in the Wider Caribbean Region will be prohibited as of 1 May 2011, following decisive action by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

San Juan (Puerto Rico), 15 April 2010 - The discharge of garbage by ships in the Wider Caribbean Region will be prohibited as of 1 May 2011, following decisive action by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The decision was taken by the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee at the organization's 60th session on 22-26 March.
With the adoption of an MEPC resolution establishing 1 May 2011 as the date on which the MARPOL 73/78 Annex V (Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships) Special Area regulations take effect in the Wider Caribbean, this region becomes the 6th zone to be protected against the discharge of all garbage from ships, other than organic materials under certain conditions (based on distance from shore and particle size).
Others include the Baltic Sea (effective since October 1989), the North Sea (February 1991), the Antarctic area (south of latitude 60 degrees south) (March 1992), the "Gulfs" area (August 2008) and the Mediterranean Sea (May 2009). The entry into force of the Special Area status in the Black and Red Seas, which have also been designated under the Annex V, is not yet effective.
Although the effective date is approximately one year from today, MEPC still calls on Governments and Industry to comply with the Special Area requirements as soon as possible.
The adoption of the resolution follows the notification at the same MEPC session by 22 Caribbean Parties to the MARPOL 73/78 Convention that sufficient adequate reception facilities for garbage are now provided in most relevant ports within the region.
In the Wider Caribbean Region, 25 Countries are Parties to MARPOL and its Annex V. This Annex prohibits the discharge of all plastics, but allows, under certain conditions, for the discharge of other types of garbage - such as dunnage, paper, lining, metal and so on - except in designated Special Areas.
MEPC, recognizing the sensitivity of the Wider Caribbean Region (by assessing its specificities, such as the oceanography, the undersea topography, the interconnectedness of the area's ecosystems and the shipping traffic in the region), designated the region as a Special Area under Annex V in 1991. However, due to a lack of capacity and an absence of notifications to IMO of the location of adequate reception facilities, the status had yet to become effective.
The Wider Caribbean Region contains 28 coastal and insular Countries that have coasts (may it be overseas territories) on the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and part of the Atlantic Ocean. It covers an area of more than 3.3 million km2, from the United States of America to French Guiana. The region's highly productive but extremely sensitive ecosystems provide a livelihood for many coastal communities through tourism, artisanal and industrial fisheries and sea bed exploitation, and more than 41 million people live within 10 km of the coastline.
Garbage in the marine environment poses several issues, whether environmental or socio-economic. It can damage habitats, cause the death of wildlife, but also impact the quality of life of local communities and affect the economies of a region, notably by its consequences on tourism.
A study conducted by UNEP assessed that litter from ocean-based sources of pollution (such as fishing nets, gear and supplies, ropes, etc.) accounted for at least 11 per cent of all marine litter in the Caribbean region. And this does not even include garbage that could have been disposed of from ships but was considered to originate from land-based sources, such as glass, metal, and paper.
According to Gaëtan Coatanroch, an IMO Consultant based at RAC/REMPEITC, the adoption of the IMO resolution shows "a strong commitment by the Parties to sustainably develop the region and decrease maritime pollution." He also added that this is a very timely move, as maritime traffic is expected to continue to dramatically increase in the Caribbean region with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 40 per cent of the world's commerce passes within a day and a half sailing time of Key West, Florida.
A concern linked to this entry into force is the availability of information regarding the location of port reception facilities in the region. The Caribbean Countries now have one year to populate IMO's database, the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS). Assistance is already planned, and a joint UNEP-IMO regional workshop addressing this matter will be held in Panama in May 2010. Subsequently, the few Parties that do not have yet adequate reception facilities have undertaken to find alternatives arrangements (which includes forming agreements with neighboring countries), and install them as soon as feasible.
Chris Corbin, UNEP CAR/RCU's Programme Officer for Pollution Prevention, congratulated the Countries for their collaboration on this matter, but also stressed the importance of having the entry into force as soon as possible of the related pollution control agreement for Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution, the LBS Protocol . This will further assist efforts to tackle the problem of solid waste and marine litter in the region.
Corbin further noted that UNEP, IMO and RAC/REMPEITC will continue to implement activities on marine and land-based sources of pollution, and to assist countries in complying with regional and international agreements' requirements for the protection of the coastal and marine environment of the Wider Caribbean.

Notes to Editors:

MARPOL is a comprehensive Convention for the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships. It covers the main sources of pollution with six annexes (namely Oil, Noxious Substances in Bulk, Harmful Substances in Packaged Form, Sewage, Garbage and Air Emissions), both in accidental or operational situations. Currently, MARPOL (and its two compulsory Annexes I and II) has 150 Parties, representing more than 99% of the global Merchant Fleet in terms of tonnage, 133 Parties to its Annex III (95.76%), 124 Parties to its Annex IV (81.62%), 139 Parties to its Annex V (97.18%) and 58 Parties to its Annex VI (83.87%).

About UNEP'S Caribbean Environment Programme And Regional Activity Centres
Recognizing the importance of the Wider Caribbean Region's marine landscape, in 1976 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme. A Caribbean Action Plan was adopted by the Caribbean Countries that led to the adoption, in 1983, of the only regional legally-binding agreement for the protection of the marine environment, the Cartagena Convention . The Convention and its first Protocol entered into force in 1986, and were later followed by the SPAW and LBS Protocols, in 1990 and 1999 respectively. The SPAW Protocol entered into force in 2000, whereas three more countries need to ratify the LBS Protocol before it can become international law.
The Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR/RCU) serves as the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention and is based in Kingston, Jamaica. To assist countries of the Wider Caribbean in implementing these various Protocols, supporting Regional Activity Centres have been developed. These Centres are based in the Netherlands Antilles (Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean, RAC/REMPEITC), Guadeloupe (RAC/SPAW), Cuba (Centre of Engineering and Environmental Management of Coasts and Bays) and Trinidad & Tobago (Institute of Marine Affairs).

In the mid-nineties, the World Bank and IMO started a project aimed to help Caribbean countries to ratify and implement the MARPOL Convention . Following this initiative, RAC/REMPEITC - a joint UNEP-IMO Activity Centre that implements technical co-operation activities to prevent and respond to maritime pollution, and notably oil spills began to conduct regional activities to stress the requirements of the Convention, specifically Annex V, and increase the public awareness on marine pollution from ships and land-based sources. Between 2007 and 2009, eight seminars were conducted in different Caribbean countries with the attendance of more than 1100 participants, including students, from 19 countries. During these seminars, countries realized that most of the ports in the region had adequate port reception facilities, and that only their notification to IMO was lacking. Now well aware of the issue , they decided to take action, and jointly notified IMO of their compliance with the Annex V Special Area requirements at the MEPC meeting in March 2010.

For additional information please contact:
Jeff Ramos or Gaëtan Coatanroch at the RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe, Seru Mahuma z/n, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Tel.: 5999-868-4612 Fax: 5999-868-4996, Email:

Further Resources
Marine Litter: A Global Challenge
UNEP: Ecosystems Management
Report Brings to the Surface the Growing Global Problem of Marine Litter