Shipping is a key user of the oceans, delivering more than 80 per cent of world trade, taking ferry passengers to their destinations and carrying millions of tourists on cruises.
Annually, more than 50,000 seagoing ships carry more than 10 billion tons of vital and desired cargoes, including commodities, fuel, raw materials and consumer goods.
As the United Nations agency responsible for developing and adopting measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent pollution from ships, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has an integral role in meeting the targets set out in UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The increase in the number and size of ships and the volume of cargo carried over the past five decades has gone hand in hand with the work of IMO through its 172 member states, to create the legal and technical framework within which shipping has become progressively cleaner and safer.
Of course, more remains to be done. The IMO will continue its efforts, in partnership with member states and other organizations, to implement and support the enforcement of its regulations.
Formed under the 1948 Convention on the International Maritime Organization, the IMO initially focused on maritime safety and navigation. Then, in the 1960s, the world became more aware of the spillage of oil into the oceans and seas through accidents or as a result of poor operating practices.
Spurred by major oil pollution incidents, such as the Torrey Canyon disaster off the south-west coast of the United Kingdom in 1967, the IMO embarked on an ambitious programme of work on marine pollution prevention and response, and on liability and compensation issues.
A key outcome was the adoption, in 1973, of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, universally known as MARPOL.
From the beginning, MARPOL addressed not just pollution by oil from ships but also noxious liquid substances such as chemicals, sewage discharges into the sea and the disposal at sea of ship-generated garbage.
Under Annex V of MARPOL, a general prohibition applies to discharging all the garbage from ships, while discharging plastics is subject to a total, globally applicable ban.
Later, in 1997, the IMO added a new Annex VI to MARPOL dealing with atmospheric pollution from ships. Today, Annex VI addresses air pollution from sulphur and other harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
In 2011, the IMO became the first international regulator for a transport sector to adopt globally binding energy efficiency requirements, which apply to all ships globally, regardless of trading pattern or flag State, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
Today, the expanded, amended and updated MARPOL Convention remains the most important, as well as the most comprehensive, international treaty covering the prevention of both marine and atmospheric pollution by ships, from operational or accidental causes.
By providing a solid foundation for substantial and continued reductions in ship-source pollution, the Convention continues to be relevant today.
Recognizing the urgent need to safeguard our oceans, the IMO has designated the last Thursday of September as World Maritime Day. Each year, this occasion provides an opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing our oceans and to celebrate the accomplishments of international agreements aimed at protecting them.
This year, World Maritime Day carries the theme, 'MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on'. As we delve deeper into the significance of MARPOL's 50th anniversary, we cannot overlook the contributions of nations around the world in upholding their commitments to reducing pollution from ships.
Pakistan, with its extensive coastline along the Arabian Sea, has been an active participant in these global efforts. The Pakistan Navy, in particular, has played a pivotal role in ensuring the enforcement of MARPOL regulations and taking proactive steps to protect its maritime environment.
Pakistan, geographically positioned at the crossroads of South Asia and the Middle East, has a coastline stretching over 1,000 kilometers along the Arabian Sea. This coastline serves as a gateway for trade, offering strategic access to international waters. Yet, Pakistan understands the responsibilities that come with such a position, recognizing the need to balance economic growth with environmental preservation.
Pakistan Maritime Security Agency’s well-equipped fleet has been actively patrolling our waters to enforce MARPOL regulations, displaying Pakistan's commitment to marine environmental protection. This commitment extends to monitoring shipping activities, inspecting vessels for compliance, and responding swiftly to incidents of pollution, ensuring that international standards are upheld.
Moreover, Pakistan has been actively participating in regional and international forums related to maritime safety and environmental protection. In recent years, Pakistan has also invested in the development of sustainable and eco-friendly port infrastructure, integrating cutting-edge technologies for waste disposal and pollution prevention.
These initiatives reflect Pakistan's dedication to preserving its marine environment for future generations.
To mark World Maritime Day, Pakistan Navy is organizing seminars/webinars to engage both the public and stakeholders in meaningful discussions about maritime conservation. These initiatives serve as platforms for experts, environmentalists, and maritime enthusiasts to come together and share knowledge, ideas, and best practices in pollution prevention.
By fostering a culture of responsibility and awareness, the Pakistan Navy plays a vital role in ensuring that the significance of World Maritime Day resonates not just within its ranks, but also throughout the nation, reinforcing the collective commitment to protect our oceans and promote sustainable maritime activities.