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Environment / KIMO’S Lerwick meeting marks importance of isles to the organisation

KIMO board meeting in the town hall

THE BOARD of KIMO, the international organisation dedicated to protect, preserve and enhance the marine environment, met in Lerwick Town Hall on Wednesday with the intention of developing a marine strategy for coming years.

President Robert te Beest said that Shetland, one of the founding members of the organisation which spans the north east Atlantic, was something of a nexus for maritime matters and bang in the middle of KIMO’s operational area.

Shetland is also home to the KIMO secretariat – the only international secretariat to be based in the isles.

The board were later shown around Lerwick and Scalloway harbours as examples of “best practice” including the supply of a back pack vacuum cleaner and brushes that can clean up net refuse from mending areas before it ends up in the sea.

Te Beest had particular praise for the ongoing Fishing for Litter initiative, one of KIMO’s “golden eggs”, which this week saw the addition of new skips for marine waste installed in Lerwick and Scalloway.

KIMO International president Robert te Beest. Photo:Peter Johnson/Shetland News.

Legislation to tackle paraffin as a cleaning agent in container ships is in its last stages of approval after a long campaign by KIMO. Paraffin dumped outside national waters ends up being washed ashore as sticky white lumps.

He added: “Today we have been talking about strategy and how best to move things forward. We are presently lobbying for a ban on paraffin.”

But things don’t move fast in the world of marine pollution, for the approval of the International Maritime Organisation must first be won, and that organisation has a powerful shipping lobby.

It all comes down to cost and who pays, said te Beest, but like legislation on car emissions, things are slowly moving in the right direction.

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Another growing problem has been air pollution caused by vessel exhausts in port, much more of a concern for big commercial ports in te Beest’s homeland of The Netherlands and Sweden.

Again, KIMO will try to assert one of its guiding principles of “the polluter pays” and once more a long struggle is envisaged.

As technology develops, so many of the gains by organisations like KIMO, can become irrelevant.

Legislation on stowing and securing containers was gradually superseded by the shipping industry using bigger ships with different methods of securing containers, according to Shetland based KIMO International communications officer Grioghair McCord.

“The strong message was there is still a lot of work to do in the north east Atlantic and North Sea and that’s still our main focus,” said McCord.

He said that following today’s resolutions the latest KIMO policy statement would be issued soon outlining exhaust pollution and liability for general cargo pollution as the next issues to be tackled.

The loss of over 300 containers from MSC Zoe, one of the world’s largest container ships, in a marine reserve off the coast of The Netherlands in January, had sent the Dutch Fishing for Litter scheme into overdrive.

Garbage from the spill sometimes outweighed the fish catch. Nineteen of the containers were also washed ashore on Dutch islands.

This had spurred the need for clean up costs to be paid by shipping companies which spill general cargoes and not just oil and toxic chemicals.

“It’s an ever changing field ….so our work is never done, but we have small victories along the way,” said McCord.

The organisation meets twice a year, with the second gathering of all the 80 odd municipality members held in October, which is also the AGM.

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