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New polar shipping rules insufficient to protect ecosystems, campaigners say



The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved a new legislation to prevent pollution and oil spills in polar waters, but environmental groups have argued these do not go far enough and called for a binding Polar Code for the Arctic.

The IMO – the UN agency responsible for prevent marine pollution from shipping – has adopted a new set of rules to prevent oil spills, discharge of noxious liquid substances and pollution by sewage and garbage in polar waters.

The new legislation will come into force in 2017 and will also cover the construction and equipment of new ships to comply with stricter environmental regulations in the poles.

However, the new measures were not warmly welcomed by environmental groups, which argue they are not enough to protect the fragile polar environment.

WWF UK’s polar programme manager Rod Downie said, “IMO member states should get all hands back on deck and honour the original vision of the Polar Code, which saw environmental protection as a priority.

“That means additional measures to reduce the risk of invasive marine species, more stringent requirements for oil spill response, banning the use and restricting carriage of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic, reducing air emissions and black carbon, and addressing underwater noise.”

Downie added that the new measures are a first step but more is needed to protect the Arctic.

A strong, legally binding Polar Code is particularly urgent in the Arctic where rapid warming is leading to the loss of sea ice and opening up of sea routes”, he said.

Shipping in the Arctic is becoming a hot topic as global warming and ice melting pave the way for new commercial routes and even luxury cruises – which are likely to have a large environmental impact.

Photo: US Geological Survey via Flickr


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Further reading:

Melting Arctic to pave the way for luxury cruises

Shrinking Arctic will create shipping bonanza in region

US Navy: melting Arctic requires new military strategy

Plans for development of Northern Sea Route on ice

New book explores economic risks of melting Arctic