The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the UN. One of IMO's primary functions is to control pollution from ships and craft operating in the marine environment. Several bodies within the IMO structure concern themselves with this, and they are the Marine Protection Committee (MEPC) and the Marine Safety Committee (MSC).
[Mediterranean Sea] The Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution (Barcelona Convention), was signed 1976 and came into force in 1978. It is the most intensively developed under the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme. Its objective is to achieve international cooperation and for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to the protection and enhancement of the Mediterranean marine environment. Latest achievements include the ban of export of hazardous waste to developing countries and phase out a number of toxic substances by 2005. The Mediterranean Pollution Monitoring and Research Programme (MED POL) receives national monitoring data from 20 Mediterranean countries. There is also the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC).
[Baltic Sea] The Convention on the protection of the marine environment (from pollution) of the Baltic Sea, 1974 (Helsinki Convention) aims to protect and enhance the marine environment of the Baltic Sea by means of regional cooperation. The Parties shall apply the precautionary principle, taking preventive measures assuming that substances introduced may create hazards in the marine environment to, inter alia, living resources and marine ecosystems. Also the Parties are obliged to apply the polluter-pays principle. The Parties are controlled by means of obligatory reporting according to a unified procedure, as well as by regular pollution-load compilation projects and emission inventories.
[North-East Atlantic Sea] The main concern of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, 1992 (OSPAR) is the prevention and elimination of pollution of the marine environment and each of its compartments, that is water, sediments and biota. Its two principal objectives are: (1) to safeguard human health, to conserve marine ecosystems and, where practicable, restore marine areas which have been adversely affected; (2) to take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution and enact the measures necessary to protect the sea against the adverse effects of human activities.
The Convention lays down general principles and a framework for considering various sources of marine pollution. It does not include a list of species or ecosystems that have to be protected, but the Parties are obliged to take the necessary measures to protect the maritime area against the adverse effects of human activities; species and habitat protection could be the objects of these measures. The Parties shall take, individually or jointly, all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution: (1) from land-based sources, in particular as provided for in Annex I; by dumping or incineration of wastes or other matter, in particular as provided for in Annex II; (2) from offshore sources, in particular as provided for in Annex III. The Parties shall, in particular, as provided for in Annex IV: undertake and publish at regular intervals joint assessments of the quality status of the marine environment and of its development, for the marine area or for regions or sub-regions thereof; include in such assessments both an evaluation of the effectiveness of the measures taken and planned for the protection of the marine environment and the identification of priorities for action.
The Parties shall further apply: (1) the precautionary principle: preventive measures are taken when there is reason to believe that substances or energy introduced into the marine environment may create hazards to harm living resources and marine ecosystems, even when there is no conclusive evidence of a causal relationship between inputs and their effects; (2) the polluter-pays principle: the costs of pollution prevention, control and reduction shall be borne by the polluter. The Parties are to apply the measures they adopt in such a way as to prevent an increase of pollution of the sea outside the maritime area or in other parts of the environment.
In implementing the Convention, the Parties shall adopt programmes and measures containing time limits for their completion, which take full account of the use of the best available technology and best environmental practice designed to prevent and eliminate pollution to the fullest extent. An Action Plan, which has to be reviewed and updated each year, sets out the practical actions to be taken towards the achievement of the objectives of the Convention. The 1992 Action Plan specified 27 activities, including the collection of qualitative and quantitative information on the quality of the marine environment. A Commission, with representatives of each of the Parties, has been established as the governing body and meets at regular intervals. The Parties shall report to the Commission on: (1) the legal, regulatory or other measures taken; (2) the effectiveness of the measures; and (3) problems encountered in implementation.
[Other International Seas and Generic Agreements] Other relevant international conventions, protocols or agreements related to pollution include: Kuwait regional convention for co-operation on the protection on the marine environment from pollution, done 1978, in force 1979; Convention on the prevention of marine pollution from land-based sources (Paris Convention) signed 1974, in force 1978; Protocol relating to intervention on the high seas in cases of marine pollution by substances other than oil, adopted 1973, in force 1983; Convention for the prevention of marine pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft (Oslo Convention), signed 1972, in force 1974; Protocol amending the Convention for the prevention of marine pollution from land-based sources; Convention on the prevention of marine pollution by dumping of wastes and other matter (London Convention) 1972, in force 1975. In 1993, parties to the London Convention passed permanent bans on the dumping of radioactive and industrial waste and ocean incineration at sea. In 1992, a new convention was adopted for the protection of the North East Atlantic to replace the Paris and Oslo Conventions. It was expected to come into force in 1995.