Marine Pollution Prevention Department
Marine environment protection includes two sections: preventing and responding to pollution from the activities of ships, platforms and offshore installations.
Preventing marine pollution entails:
- Implementing environmental legislations and conventions regarding marine pollution prevention; and
- Ratifying international instruments, developing national legislations, providing waste reception facilities for ships, inspecting ships and platforms, etc.
International agreements responding to environmental challenges:
Preventing marine pollution:
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL);
- International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM); and
- International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems, (Anti-Fouling).
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
One of the crucial international conventions on preventing pollution from ships is MARPOL, which was approved during a diplomatic conference in 1973 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and was amended by the 1978 Protocol to it. The provisions include various sources of pollution from ships, and concentrate on eliminating intentional pollution of the marine environment by oil and other harmful substances, and minimizing their intentional or accidental discharge at sea through the implementation of stringent requirements on ships and ports. Annexes V and VI to the Convention were revised considerably in 2011.
The Convention applies to:
- Ships flying or entitled to fly the flag of a Party to the Convention; and
- Ships operating under the authority of a Party.
Any violation of convention requirements is prohibited and will be punished according to the regulations of the maritime administration of the Party whose flag the violating ship is entitled to fly. Any violation in the areas under the jurisdiction of a Party is also prohibited and will be punished according to the legislations of that Party.
Any Party shall furnish to the Administration evidence, if any, that the ship has discharged harmful substances or effluents containing such substances in violation of the provisions of the Regulations. Whenever a Party receives a report under the provisions of the present Article, that Party shall relay the report without delay to the Administration of the ship involved. If a pollution incident involves major deleterious impacts on the marine environment, the Parties shall investigate the issue and prosecute the violators, with sufficiently severe punishments to prevent the recurrence of the violation.
In order to fully eliminate international marine environment pollution by oil and other dangerous materials, as well as accidental discharging of such materials into the sea, the International Marine Pollution Conference decided to establish a convention called International Convention on Prevention of Pollution from Ships in 1973.
Five years later, the 1978 International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention adopted the 1978 Protocol to the above Convention in order to amend it and facilitate its accession. Since then, the Convention and its Protocol are considered one whole, referred to as MARPOL.
MARPOL includes two obligatory annexes:
Annex I: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, and Annex II: Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk) and four optional annexes(
Annex III: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form,
Annex IV: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships,
Annex V: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships,
Annex VI:Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran ratified Annexes I, II and V in the year 2002 and Annexes III, IV and VI in 2009. Under these provisions, the ports of the country need to be equipped with adequate facilities to receive wastes from ships, including petrochemical materials and oily wastes, used oil, sludge, bilge water and garbage.
Special Sea Areas & Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
The issue of Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) was first mentioned by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in 1978. Discussions and debates on this issue from 1986 to 1991 led to the preparation and adoption of the Guidelines for Designation of Special Areas and the Guidelines for Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA), on ecological, economical, social, and national grounds and with emphasis on their vulnerability and sensitivity against international maritime activities. In 1971, UNESCO introduced the earth’s reserves in the form of the Man and Biosphere (MAB) Program.
The Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 1982), has established for coastal States the right to determine special sea areas in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) by providing the necessary details. In this convention, special sea areas are areas where special measures are needed in order to prevent pollution from ships, due to recognized technical grounds regarding oceanographical features, as well as its utilization or protection of its resources and the particular characteristics of its traffic.
Special Sea Areas
Approval of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area by MEPC 56
The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its fifty-sixth session, held 9-13 July 2007 in London, adopted the sea area of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area. A Special Sea Area means a sea area where, for recognized technical reasons in relation to its oceanographical and ecological condition and to the particular character of its traffic, the adoption of special mandatory methods for the prevention of sea pollution by oil and/or garbage is required.
Special Sea Areas may consist of the sea areas of one or more countries, and include confined or semi-confined reservoirs. According to the criteria speculated by the IMO, areas would be chosen as Special Sea Areas where there is enough potential for harmful substances to accumulate and remain for long periods of time, and the ecological condition of the area necessitates protection of the living ecosystems and habitats. Moreover, the maritime traffic in such areas must be so high that the usual regulations are unable to guarantee protection of their marine environment. Apart from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, eight other areas, i.e. Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Antarctica, North Sea, and coastal waters of Oman in the Arabian Sea have so far been defined as Special Sea Areas.
The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman area house critical aquatic habitats such as mangrove forests and coral reefs, precious species of pelagic fish, shrimps, turtles, aquatic mammals like dolphins, as well as valuable native and migrating birds such as herons, egrets, cormorants, flamingos, ospreys, and grebes. Considering the annual traffic of around forty thousands vessels and the extensive activities for exploitation of the oil resources beneath the sea bed, and following the request by the regional littoral States, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved the implementation of special regulations for pollution prevention in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Enforcing such regulations in the Special Sea Areas is an effective method for marine environment protection.
Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area
Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)
An area that needs special protection from IMO due to ecological, social, economical, or scientific reasons or its vulnerability against maritime activities.
The concept of special and particularly sensitive sea areas, and its adoption by the IMO has provided for the development of joint executive plans and regulations in these areas which possess significant environmental importance. Establishing strict regulations for the SSAs and even stricter regulations for the PSSAs is one of the major international measures taken with the following aims:
- Protecting the rich natural habitats in the coastal areas and open sea;
- Protecting the coastal refuges for breeding, rearing, and resting of aquatic species;
- Guaranteeing the stability of ecological products and environmental services in the marine environment;
- Protecting the botanical, animal, and microbial genetic reserves crucial for the industries, health and hygiene, nutrition and textile of societies;
- Protecting the cultural, indigenous, and traditional values in the coastal areas.
The issue of Special Sea Areas in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman was first mentioned in ١٩٨٨ by ROPME, which has assigned some areas in this region as sensitive areas in one of its documents regarding the use of oil dispersants. These areas include some of the identified habitats with economical and ecological significance.
PSSA Protection Program
Stage I: Preparation
1. Defining Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)
2. Establishing environmental factors for identification and selection of PSSAs
2.1. Ecological factors
- Critical Habitat
- Spawning or breeding ground
- Bio-geographic importance
2.2 Human Factors
- Economic benefit
- Human dependency
- Baseline and monitoring studies
3. Introduction of the identified PSSAs
The first steps regarding SSAs in Iran was taken in ١٩٩٤ by the Iranian Department of Environment (DoE), based on the initial indexes for the introduction of such areas with regard to location and protection of mangrove forests, coral reefs, habitats for mammals, marine turtles, aquatic birds, and important areas for breeding of species used for fisheries.
Stage II: Field study
- Preparing a model for assessment and ranking of the PSSAs
- Preparing protection priority charts of the Iranian PSSAs
- Preparing a protection program for PSSAs
- Providing a monitoring program for PSSAs
Stage III: Management
The next steps regarding PSSAs were taken in 1997 through preparation of the National Plan for Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC) by the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO). According to this Plan, PSSAs are areas in which special protective measures are required to prevent the spread of oil pollution. The Plan includes a detailed list of PSSAs, based on which the oil pollution authorities are required to take special measures to protect the PSSAs in case of oil pollution incidents.