Home' Ships and Shipping : February 2011 Contents marine pollution (more than 90 percent) was land sourced. The
plastics, bottles, food packaging, plastic bags, cigarette lighters and so
on were mostly clearly labelled or otherwise easily traced.
Hydrocarbons were almost entirely automotive sump oil or road spill.
Faeces, both human and animal came from very obvious sources.
Paper, glass bottles and steel and aluminium cans were
determined to be a smaller and, in any case declining factor.
The real “nasties”
The real nasties were plastics, oil and sewage.
The ship owners, while knowing full well that they were not
completely blameless, recognised that they and their employees
were very small contributors to the supply of marine muck. They
determined to stop even that small contribution. They also
determined to try to eliminate the massive amounts of
land-sourced muck that was polluting their beautiful Aegean.
They very wisely decided that the problem required the
application of the three “Es”: Education, Encouragement and
Enforcement. They started with education and that, obviously, is
where you come in.
Children are the best messengers
It has been found that the best stage or age of children for
receiving and accepting serious moral and behavioural messages is
at middle school level – around 11 to 14. So, they were the ones
they concentrated their messages on.
Working closely with the Greek education system, the ship
owners encouraged lessons that showed clearly both the extent
and the causes of the problem. The children soon realised what
they and their parents were doing. Most of them modified their
own behaviour and persuaded their parents, elder siblings and
At the same time HELMEPA worked with the Greek Government
to develop a public awareness campaign to encourage the
man-in-the-street not to dump his muck in the street. The
government was also encouraged to extract substantial penalties from
gross polluters; to much more rigorously enforce environmental laws;
and, to install effective trash traps in the drains and waterways.
Starting in 1985 everything happened quickly. Even as soon as
1988, as I mentioned earlier, it was noticeable that marine
pollution was not worsening. The theories were valid and by the
early 1990s the tide of trash was clearly receding.
The tide of trash recedes
The Greek success encouraged the Greeks’ not very friendly
neighbours in Turkey to follow the same course with respect to the
sea both countries share. Bear in mind that 20 years previously, the
Greeks and Turks were at war.
Thus was TURMEPA born. It followed a similar course and has
been similarly successful. Indeed, on my most recent cruise
through the Aegean with my family two years ago we would
have been unlucky to see a plastic bottle more than every mile.
At the same time we were very well aware that if we dumped the
contents of our sewage holding tank into the sea we would be
liable for an on-the-spot fine of 7,000 Euros. In default, a stretch
Soon after CYMEPA was started to try to achieve the same thing
cooperatively in the uncooperative condominium of Cyprus which
is ruled by both the Greeks and the Turks.
The MEPA concept spreads
The now well-proven MEPA concept was on a roll. Then
followed Australia, the Philippines, Ukraine, North America and
Uruguay. We hope that Thailand and Malaysia will follow soon.
The MEPA concept of applying Education, Encouragement and
Enforcement to the marine pollution problem very clearly works.
All it needs is motivated people to get it underway.
It does not require a lot of people or even much money. The
right kinds of motivated, well-connected people can achieve a lot
with very few resources. It’s a bit like guerrilla warfare. In fact, I
am convinced that a lean and hungry organisation with no
bureaucracy and no parasitic passengers can achieve a lot more
than a rich one.
Different countries, different cultures
Every country has a different culture so, obviously,
the approach has to be tailored to local conditions. The
problem, nevertheless, remains the same wherever you are.
So does the MEPA plan of attack based on the three “E”s
remain constant. The major difference is in the people who
support the campaign.
In Greece, as I mentioned, it has been very much the work of
the ship owners. In Australia we started mainly with media and
government but now AUSMEPA is a healthy mixture of ship
owners, media, ship builders, academics and government.
Here, in the Philippines, it has been the maritime schools,
particularly Commodore la Jimenez’s, the Navy, and the Coast
Guard. In North America the strong supporters are mainly
suppliers of services to the maritime industry.
Wherever the MEPAs have flourished there has, however, been
one very disappointing aspect to the profile of our supporters.
That is the almost complete absence of any concern or
support on the part of marine or coastal tourism operators. They
are the ones who benefit most directly and substantially from
cleaner seas. Despite continued approaches, they continue to
ignore us. A great pity. I hope you can do better with them here
in the Philippines.
Maritime Schools: Major influence
Anyway, this is where the Maritime Schools come in. They
represent a very large and very important industry in the
Philippines. They should, equally, have very considerable influence
over both the government and the people.
Ultimately, also, the Philippines maritime schools can have
considerable influences on a global basis. Your graduates sail the
seven seas in massive numbers. They work for ship owners on all
continents and visit ports everywhere.
So, you can very effectively spread the word both locally, here
in the Philippines, and globally. I am sure that an important
component of your courses will involve pollution prevention.
MARPOL and local rules will do doubt be at the forefront of your
graduates’ minds. They will all be aware that seafarers must behave
impeccably in an environmental sense.
They, of course, will not be significant marine polluters. The
real problem is their parents, siblings, relatives and friends ashore
who are carelessly dumping their rubbish wherever they feel like it.
The problem is everywhere
I well remember travelling along Roxas Boulevard in Manila
recently in a rainstorm. The street was six inches or more deep
in fast flowing water. Ordinary cars, like my taxi, could barely
move. That really didn’t worry me. What upset me, though, was
the enormous amount of trash floating along the boulevard. I
estimate there were four or five items in every square metre. The
most obvious were plastic foam cups, plastic bottles and plastic
bags but there was much more. All of it, presumably, would end
up in Manila Bay and eventually on the poor invisible beaches
such as on Corregidor.
That, really, is the problem. It is a very significant problem here
in the Philippines. It is equally significant throughout south-east
Asia and through much of the rest of the world.
The very important fact is that the problem can be solved
cheaply, quickly and permanently if the MEPA concept is followed.
If properly guided, your graduates can help to spread the word in
the Philippines and wherever else they travel. They are in a unique
position to do so. You are in a unique position to point them in
the right direction.
A must for Maritime Schools
Marine Environment Protection is very much a “Must for
Maritime Schools”. Indeed, I believe it just as important a subject
as navigation, seamanship, meteorology, safety or diesel engine
maintenance. Protecting the Marine Environment should be on
the curriculum at all levels. An important part of that teaching
should be to show your students how to get the message across to
their fellow, non-seafarer, Filipinos. That is how the MEPA concept
works so effectively.
INTERMEPA would be delighted to supply you with starter
material from which you can build your own lessons. We have
developed some very good educational material in various parts
of the world. All of it can be easily adapted to Philippine
conditions or translated into Tagalog. You don’t need to
reinvent the wheel.
The maritime schools of the Philippines are in a uniquely
powerful position to have a very positive environmental effect.
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