The ISCO delegation to MEPC64 presented its paper highlighting the problems faced by masters of skimming vessels when prohibited from discharging settled-out water during operations to recover oil spillage.
The hoped-for outcome was that MEPC would recognise these problems and refer the matter back to the OPRC-HNS Technical Group with an instruction to develop guidelines with the aim of making it easier for responders to legally decant settled-out water and thus realise the net environmental benefit of being able to continue oil recovery.
The development of such guidelines to ensure that decanting operations will be carried out in a proper and responsible manner, could have paved the for MEPC guidelines for such decanting, if not for an amendment to MARPOL Annex 1.
As things stand MARPOL Annex 1, regulation 4, paragraph 3 does allow individual governments to authorise decanting in specific oil spill combating situations but, for numerous reasons, this clause is hardly ever exercised.
One of these may be an understandable reluctance by member states to accept responsibility for giving a “carte blanche” without agreed safeguards.
Nine delegations spoke in response to the ISCO Paper but the general gist was that MARPOL Annex 1 had no Unplanned Output in regard to international shipping, was thus not a candidate for amendment and that the existing provision for member states is adequate.
Under this circumstance the matter will not be passed back to the Technical Group.
ISCO will now independently work on the development of the necessary guidelines, and make them available to individual nation states for voluntary adoption within national oil spill response contingency plans.
A report by Member of the ISCO Delegation to MEPC, Dr Douglas Cormack, is given within the ISCO News section of the ISCO Newsletter Issue 355. You can find this in the Newsletter archive on the ISCO website.