News

2022 November 24 18:03

MEPSEAS South-East Asian marine protection project concludes

The conclusion of a successful five-year initiative to protect the marine environment in South-East Asia from the negative effects of ships and shipping has been marked at a high-level meeting (25-27 October) in Viet Nam with the adoption of a MEPSEAS-Halong Statement by the participating countries, according to IMO's release.

The Marine Environment Protection of the South-East Asian Seas (MEPSEAS) project has seen seven partner countries - Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam – make substantial progress in ratifying and implementing key IMO environmental treaties. During this process, countries implemented national legal and policy developments and benefitted from related capacity building in port and flag state inspections to support enforcement of the selected Conventions. The project also supported country-specific port biological baseline survey training, the Green Shipping-Green Port-Green Shipyards (GGG) initiative of the Philippines and the holding of a regional maritime technology conference, among other activities.

As the MEPSEAS project draws to a close, Mr. Jose Matheickal, Chief, Department of Projects and Partnerships of IMO, said MEPSEAS has been one of the most successful projects IMO has handled in terms of delivery and impact on marine conservation.

The MEPSEAS project was phase II of a collaboration between IMO and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) which worked in conjunction with the seven partner countries to implement the Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems in Ships (AFS), the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWM), the London Protocol and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL) (particularly Annex V regulations covering garbage from ships). 

The aim of MEPSEAS was that, by the end of the project, countries would have acceded and implemented their chosen Convention and have in place long-term plans to ensure the protection of the South-East Asian Seas for years to come – aims which have been achieved. 

At the conclusion of the MEPSEAS Third High Level Regional Meeting in Ha Long City, Viet Nam, all participant countries adopted the Ha Long Statement which commits them to continue to work in the spirit of MEPSEAS to ratify and implement more international Conventions related to the protection of the marine environment.

The project model has motivated other regions to implement similar projects such as the Caribbean region where a project (Caribbean Sustainable Maritime Transport Project – CaribSMART) is being designed by taking the lessons from the MEPSEAS project.

In fact, the Philippines have seen such merit in having a national task force as the mechanism to deal with all IMO Conventions, they have decided to formalise theirs under a new name as a permanent fixture via presidential decree. 
 
The MEPSEAS project culminated with the MEPSEAS Technology Conference in Singapore on 16-17 November held in collaboration with the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore. Two classification societies and IMO’s Head of Marine Biosafety, Theofanis Karayannis, were also in attendance.

The event’s theme was “Environmental solutions for sustainable shipping in South-East Asia” and focused on the latest technologies and solutions for ballast water management; antifouling systems and the introduction of new antifouling measures; and ship-waste management.  

The MEPSEAS project formally comes to an end on 31 December 2022. Originally planned as a four-year programme, NORAD extended its financial assistance for a year due to the impact of Covid-19.

The Third High Level Regional Meeting in Quang Ninh was an opportunity to take stock of the overall status of MEPSEAS, and of participating countries’ progress. It was also a chance for those attending – Heads of Maritime Administrations, National Focal Points, national and regional experts, and the IMO Project Coordination Unit – to reflect on the Project’s key achievements and milestones.  

The MEPSEAS project promoted national legal and policy developments and related capacity building in port and flag state inspections to support enforcement of the selected Conventions. And it also supported specific port biological baseline survey training, the Green Shipping-Green Port-Green Shipyards (GGG) initiative of the Philippines and the holding of a regional maritime technology conference, among other activities. 

It built on the phase I IMO-Norad foundation project which saw substantial progress by countries in implementing or acceding to IMO environmental treaties. Myanmar joined the initiative at the start of phase II. For countries which have acceded to the relevant treaties in the foundation project, the MEPSEAS project has allowed them to focus on effective implementation.