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Since an estimated 70% of the earth's surface consists of water, and over 95% of that water is in the oceans, some people might find it strange that trash and other pollutants in such a massive amount of water could pose much of a threat. Marine pollution is not a new issue. For many years, countries have deposited industrial and agricultural wastes, garbage, medical waste, plastics, radioactive material, and other harmful substances into the world's oceans. The ocean's vastness and depth tend to lull us into thinking that items and substances dumped into it are minuscule by comparison.
Individuals may think that ships and boats are the primary causes of marine pollution; however, plastics and garbage make up a significant amount of marine pollution. Some experts suggest that one day the amount of plastic in the ocean could outweigh the fish. Garbage that has sunk to the ocean floor cannot be removed and will remain a perpetual threat to the underwater ecosystem that supports marine life.
To protect the marine environment, mariners, ship navigators, captains, administrators and government agencies must adhere to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Marine Environment Protection Committee regulations. Additionally, American Nautical Service, a safe navigation and shipping leader, publishes instructional guides and nautical charts and provides training that helps entities comply with regulations designed to protect the marine environment.
Since October 1972, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has regulated the dumping and discharging of waste materials into the ocean. Congress enacted the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. This act prohibits U.S. entities from dumping anything in the ocean that can endanger human health and marine life.
In addition to its regulatory role related to marine pollution, the EPA is part of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, an International Maritime Organization (IMO) under the United Nations. Members of the IMO work together to prevent marine pollution and promote maritime safety and security. The committee has developed global standards for controlling pollution from ships, including air pollution.
The groundwork for the IMO was accomplished in 1948 to establish international regulations for shipping safety and related concerns. The original name for the organization was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization. The organization met for the first time in 1959. Early work focused on facilitating international maritime traffic, load line safety, and transporting dangerous cargo. The group also revised the system for measuring ships' tonnage.
During the early years, safety was a primary focus of the committee. However, the increase in oil transported by sea and the 1967 Torrey Canyon oil spill off the United Kingdom coast resulted in the Committee developing measures to reduce oil tanker accidents and the subsequent environmental impacts. The vessel spilled an estimated 25-36 million gallons of oil that contaminated the waters and beaches of the English Channel, killing birds, fish and other marine life.
During the 1970s, the IMO implemented a global search and rescue system with the International Mobile Satellite Organization to improve radio transmission and other messaging to ships. In 1988, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) was initiated and it became fully functioning in early 1999. By transmitting distress signals automatically, the system allows any ship in distress to get assistance, even if there is no time for the crew to radio for help.
In 1973, the IMO began developing the Marpol Conventions, regulations sea vessels must follow for preventing different types of pollution. The conventions consist of six Annexes covering regulations for the following pollutants: oil, bulk noxious substances, packaged harmful substances, sewage, garbage, and air pollution.
Fewer accidental oil spills, clean and healthy seafood, and safe travel by sea vessels are just a sample of how clean and safe marine environments benefit everyone. American Nautical Service, a safe navigation and shipping leader, is the go-to source for companies and individuals responsible for shipping and protecting the marine environment. For more information and to purchase and download materials visit amnautical.com