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Protecting the seas - PSCMU may impose minimum tanker standards
By Robert Smith

Gulf Daily News - Bahrain

7th March 2004

Environment officials will meet in Bahrain today to discuss ways of combating pollution in the region's waters.

Representatives from all GCC countries and Iran will take part in the meeting, which is being conducted by the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (MEMAC).

The seven states are all members of the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME).

ROPME states are in the process of finalising an agreement, called the Port State Control Memorandum of Understanding, which will give members the right to impose minimum standards on ships.

That agreement will form a major part of today's meeting - with the aim of reducing the amount of oil pollution caused by sub-standard vessels, which normally carry smuggled Iraqi oil.

MEMAC director Captain Abdulmumen Al Janahi says this is the only part of the world that does not have such an agreement.

"That is why we have sub-standard ships," he told the GDN yesterday. "It is a serious concern."

Records show that in 1998 over three million gallons of oil was spilled into the Gulf as a result of vessels being in a poor condition, or ships pouring engine oil at sea.

That was reduced to 441,176 gallons in 2002 thanks to the actions of MEMAC and member states.

Oil pollution in the Gulf has been reduced by over 20,000 tonnes every year, according to MEMAC.

However, so far only Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ratified the Port State Control Memorandum of Understanding.

Once all seven ROPME members sign up to the agreement they will have the right to refuse entry to sub-standard ships.

"Taking action will eliminate a lot of that threat," said Captain Al Janahi, who added that oil pollution has serious consequences for Gulf countries.

"When it reaches the coast it destroys fish farms, mangroves and marine life," he said.

Today's meeting will be attended by region response officers from each of the seven ROPME states.

They are responsible for reacting to oil and other hazardous waste pollution in the Gulf.

During the annual meeting they will also discuss the ratification of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Co-operation.

Benefits of the newly established Search and Rescue Centre in Iran will also be addressed, as well as preparations for the regional oil spill exercise drill in Oman next year.

Recommendations to come out of the meeting will be forwarded to the Environment Ministers in each ROPME member state for endorsement and further action.