Nations reach agreement on harmful anti-fouling chemicals for ships

Seventy six countries have reached an agreement to control the hazardous organotin antifouling chemical for ships, according to a convention signed by member states of the International Maritime Organisation, and one non-member, on 5 October.


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According to the convention, by 1 January 2008, ships, fixed and floating platforms, and other floating units should not have organotin compounds on their hulls, or should have a coating that forms a barrier to prevent such compounds from leaching into the water. However, there is a clause that states that a ship will be entitled to compensation if it is unduly delayed whilst undergoing inspection for possible violations of the convention.

Under the agreement, ships that weigh 400 gross tonnes or above and are engaged in international voyages are required to undergo an initial survey before they are put into service or before the International Anti-fouling System Certificate is issued for the first time, and should undergo further surveys when anti-fouling systems are changed. Ships of less than 400 gross tonnage, but at least 24 metres long, will have to carry a declaration on anti-fouling systems signed by the owner or an authorised agent, which is accompanied by documentation such as a paint receipt or contractor invoice.

The new convention marks the successful outcome of the task set by Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 developed by the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development, which called on countries to take measures to reduce pollution caused by organotin compounds used in anti-fouling systems. “Our efforts will now turn to ensuring the Convention is brought into force as soon as possible,” said William A O’Neil, IMO Secretary-General. He added that although the conference had seen intense debate, the “IMO spirit of goodwill, understanding and compromise on the part of the many delegates and observers from all over the world made it possible to reach consensus on important issues, such as entry into force criteria”.

A resolution within the convention invites member states to do their utmost to prepare for implementation as a matter or urgency, and also urges the relevant industries to refrain from the marketing, sale and application of the substances controlled by the convention. Other resolutions invite the IMO to develop guidelines for sampling and inspections, and request IMO member states to promote technical co-operation particularly with developing nations in order to aid implementation of the convention.

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