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Celebrating World Maritime Day: The impact of MARPOL and the importance of Risk Management

Today, we join the maritime sector in observing the notable World Maritime Day, a day of reflection and commitment to our oceans’ health and sustainability.

This year holds particular significance as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking International Convention, MARPOL, a pivotal framework formulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) dedicated to preventing marine pollution from ships due to operational or accidental causes.

MARPOL: A pillar of marine conservation

Adopted on November 2, 1973, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) has become the seminal international convention addressing the prevention of marine environment pollution by ships. In response to a series of tanker accidents between 1976-1977, the Protocol of 1978 was introduced to consolidate and integrate the 1973 MARPOL Convention, emphasizing the need for immediate action to safeguard marine biodiversity and curb pollution.

The MARPOL Convention currently incorporates six annexes focusing on different types of pollution:

  • Annex I: Oil Pollution Prevention (effective from 1983). For instance, this mandates oil tankers to have a double hull, establishing an added layer of protection in accidents.
  • Annex II: Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk (effective from 1983).
  • Annex III: Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form (effective from 1992). This annex sets forth regulations for packing, labelling, and storing of harmful substances to curtail damage to the marine environment during accidents or emergencies.
  • Annex IV: Sewage Pollution Prevention (effective from 2003).
  • Annex V: Garbage Pollution Prevention (effective from 1988). The IMO 2020 sulphur limit under this annex reduced sulphur oxide emissions by 77% from January 1, 2020, safeguarding human health and marine ecosystems.
  • Annex VI: Air Pollution Prevention (effective from 2005). These regulations bolster energy-efficient ship design and operations, pushing the transition to cleaner fuels and innovations to reduce GHG emissions, aligning with IMO GHG Strategy.

Moreover, MARPOL enforces the Polar Code, offering extra safeguards for ships traversing Polar waters.

The impact on Marine Claims

When exploring marine claims, especially those with environmental ramifications, it’s crucial to analyze risks related to cargo, hull, machinery, and liability in the maritime sector, arising from both operational and accidental scenarios. It’s essential to understand the wide range of events that can bring about notable financial and environmental repercussions.

Operational risks

Operational risks refer to the prospects of loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people, systems, or external events. In the maritime context, this encompasses:

  • Oil spillage and contamination: Regular operations like loading, discharging, and bunkering can cause oil spills, leading to extensive pollution claims.
  • Waste disposal: Incorrect disposal of waste from ships could inflict environmental damage, resulting in claims.
  • Air emissions: Emissions from ship engines can be considerable, and non-compliance with air pollution prevention measures can cause claims under MARPOL Annex VI.
  • Equipment failure: The breakdown of essential ship components can result in operational interruptions and potential claims.

Accidental causes

Accidental risks emerge from unforeseen and unplanned incidents. These can include:

  • Collisions: Accidental collisions with other ships or stationary objects can lead to significant damage and subsequent claims.
  • Groundings: Ships running aground can incur structural damages, causing environmental destruction and claims.
  • Fires and explosions: Accidental fires or explosions on board can lead to extensive damage to the ship and cargo, possibly resulting in claims.
  • Extreme weather: Ships encountering severe weather conditions can suffer damages leading to claims.

The symbiosis between MARPOL and Risk Management

The integration of risk management strategies and robust insurance policies is fundamental in addressing claims risks stemming from operational or accidental causes in the maritime sector. The meticulous implementation of international conventions like MARPOL is indicative of the global commitment to preserving marine ecosystems and promoting responsible maritime operations.

The collective endeavours of various stakeholders, including insurance providers, maritime operators, and international organizations, underline the shared responsibility in steering the maritime industry towards a resilient and sustainable future.

Risk Management: A Proactive Approach

In the face of increasing risks and potential catastrophic losses in maritime transport, proactive risk management is the linchpin for dealing with these challenges efficiently and cost-effectively. Claimar provides its risk management expertise. Our approach encompasses:

  • Risk Identification: Understanding of internal and external factors affecting performance in Marine, including environmental considerations such as climate change impacts, pollution levels, and ecological balance, and detection of potential environmental and commercial risks in worldwide commerce and trading.
  • Risk Assessment: Support using economic, environmental, and financial data evaluation, assessing the environmental implications and impacts of maritime operations, and analysis of models to evaluate potential environmental damages and the required mitigations.
  • Risk Evaluation: Incorporation of governance, policies, and procedures assistance, with a focus on environmental compliance and sustainability. Risk analysis and decision-making that includes evaluating environmental risks, such as spills, emissions, and waste disposal, and determining the necessary actions and policies to mitigate them.
  • Risk Monitoring: Conducting technical auditing and reporting for risk control and improvement actions with an emphasis on environmental safeguards and monitoring. Regularly monitoring and reporting on environmental risk factors and the effectiveness of the implemented mitigation measures to ensure sustainable maritime operations.

On this World Maritime Day, we not only celebrate the golden anniversary of MARPOL but also reflect on the substantial strides made by the international community in marine protection. The importance of rigorous risk management strategies cannot be overstated in the face of diverse and multifaceted maritime operations. By reinforcing our commitment to international conventions like MARPOL and enhancing our collaborative efforts, we can continue to mitigate the impact of maritime activities on the environment and safeguard our precious marine ecosystems.

We are Claimar, your Third Party Administration (TPA) management partner, skilled and expert in marine services.


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