The environmental arm of shipping's International Maritime Organization, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee met in London June 28 to July 2, 1999. Significant debates centered around a ban on certain antifouling ship paints.
A late vote by the committee found 50% of the delegates in favor of keeping to the current ban dates for tributyltin (TBT) of 01/01/03 and 01/01/08. The working group had reported insufficient progress towards recommending a diplomatic conference, but a last minute voice vote of the entire council overrode the working groups caution.
Developing antifoulant guidelines may now proceed to the next step in the IMO regulatory process, a diplomatic conference in 2000 or 2001. In a conference, the regulations are debated and if approved, are passed to the General Assembly and eventually to individual member nations for ratification. Any IMO legislation that may potentially effect MARPOL 73/78 must pass through this rigorous process. Supporters of the ban on TBT antifoulants convinced the MEPC to allow preliminary approval to send the current debate into a diplomatic conference. The IMO Council will decide in November whether enough progress has been made to warrant the conference.
Both sides of the debate were pleased that a draft legal instrument, based upon the United States draft proposal, was chosen. Opponents of the current plan believe the proposal highlights the fact that many issues have yet to be debated. Critical concerns such as enforcement, standardizing detection limits and definition of key concepts such as "application" and "antifoulant" remain to be discussed. Proponents feel each step brings them closer towards meeting the target date of Jan. 1, 2003 when the application of TBT biocide based paints will be prohibited worldwide
More information: CQD Journal for the Maritime Environment Industry