Environmental Disaster - Our Oceans, Our Life Line

Phil Tarrant is a Director of Powerful Organic.

I have been working at sea for 46 years and have seen many changes in the attitude towards the use of the oceans as ‘dumping grounds’ for everything we humans can put in it.

In the early 1970’s we all thought that the sea was so vast it didn’t matter what we put in it, as it could easily accommodate anything. All ship waste was regularly ‘thrown overboard’ with no thought of the consequences. Ship wrecks off the Isles of Scilly ( the Torrey Cannon in 1967) and the West Coast of France (the Amoco Cadiz in 1978) made a mess of the beaches with spilt crude oil and harmed the wildlife but not much was being done at that time.

Oil tankers regularly disposed of the tank washings from the cargo tanks directly into the sea!

Then in 1973 the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), part of the UN, issued its first real global regulations to prevent pollution of the oceans the International Convention Marine Pollution Rules of 1973 (MARPOL). Strict controls were put into place (but not coming into force until October 1983!) and oil tankers were redesigned to accommodate these new regulations. All discharges into the sea were now regulated and not just from oil tankers. Further Rules have been implemented around the USA coasts, following on from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

The dumping of plastics into the oceans was totally banned on 31 December 1988 and all plastic waste from ships had to be landed ashore for ‘correct & safe’ disposal.

Over the years the MARPOL Rules have been extended and now cover just about all discharges from Merchant Vessels. It now includes discharges of oil and chemicals, garbage (including plastics), sewage, and recently (2005) discharges into the air reducing Sulphur Dioxide emissions.

All disposals (garbage, plastics, oil etc) are strictly and carefully recorded and Government and other concerned parties (eg US Guard) can check these records for any discrepancies or violations. The penalties are very severe for those who do break the ‘rules’.

No such Rules are applied to pollution from the land, only National Rules which are not uniform.

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