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Special Supplement: Int'l maritime forum focuses on safety, environment
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09:37, November 08, 2007

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SHANGHAI: The Shanghai International Maritime Forum 2007 opened yesterday, focusing on the global concern regarding oil transportation and maritime environment protection.

Nearly 250 delegates from home and abroad are attending the two-day forum, the third edition of the biennial event since 2003.

Ministry of Communications Engineer-general Jiang Qian, Chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Andreas I. Chrysostomou, and Shanghai Vice-Mayor Yang Xiong addressed the opening ceremony yesterday morning.

It was followed by a keynote speech by Liu Gongchen, deputy executive director general of China Maritime Safety Administration (MSA).

"The Shanghai International Maritime Forum is designed to become a platform open to the international maritime circle for information exchange," Liu said.

The event focuses on topics concerning sustainable development, such as shipping safety and environmental protection, he added.

"Through this platform, we hope to promote information exchange, expand the scale of international cooperation, and boost China's development in the maritime sector."

The forum is also expected to promote the global influence of Shanghai, which is positioned as a shipping center not only for China but hopefully the entire world as well, Liu further said.

With a phenomenal rise in global petroleum consumption, the petro-shipping business is experiencing a boom that has, in turn, increased pressure on the marine environment, said Liu.

Challenge

The deputy director elaborated on the challenges the world faces and proposed five points on conducting global maritime environmental protection.

According to the International Energy Agency, global petroleum consumption is estimated to increase by 50 percent by 2030.

Hence, the maritime environmental hazard posed by the increasing numbers of oceangoing ships is drawing increasing global attention, Liu said.

Due to the sustained and extensive damage caused by an oil spill, and the difficulty of controlling such pollution, it leads to the incurrence of irretrievable losses, which calls for joint action from the global community to reduce risk.

Thanks to the continuing international efforts toward technical cooperation, control over maritime pollution and emergency response systems related to oil spills, maritime preservation has improved substantially, said Liu.

"However, we are still faced with a challenging situation in view of severe pollution resulting from maritime accidents such as tank collision, grounding and stranding," he emphasized.

China, the world's fifth biggest petroleum producer and second in terms of petroleum consumption, has developed into a thriving economy and thus grown increasingly dependent on petroleum.

As China's demand for petroleum continues to grow, the already busy shipping environment along the coastal areas is expected to become more complicated, Liu said.

The Chinese government has long accorded priority to maritime protection and ensuring the sustainability of marine resources, he added.

The country currently has in place comprehensive systems for maritime pollution control and emergency response.

"To protect the maritime environment is to save ourselves. Sustainable development of sea resources is a part of building a harmonious society," Liu said.

Shanghai

Chen Aiping, head of Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration, said that the port city has made huge progress on its way toward becoming an international shipping center.

The volume of containers handled in Shanghai is expected to reach 25 million twenty equivalent units (TEU) this year, he said.

"The container throughput in Shanghai's Yangshan Port is growing by several million TEUs of containers each year."

"Shanghai is ranked third in the world in terms of container throughput, and there is a possibility that the city can move a step forward this year," Chen noted.

Shanghai has also ranked first globally in terms of the total volume of cargo transport for a few consecutive years, he added.

"Sponsoring such an international forum is expected to promote Shanghai's status and influence."

Discussion

This year's theme is a hot issue that many countries find a challenge.

At the forum, domestic and overseas delegates exchanged ideas on the current situation and on increased convention implementation related to international anti-pollution measures.

MEPC Chairman Andreas I. Chrysostomou led the discussion on the first subject, by reporting on the latest actions taken by the committee.

He said that the committee has endorsed a proposal to commission a comprehensive study - applying proposed fuel options to reduce sulfur oxide generated by shipping - by an informal cross government/industry scientific group of experts to review the impact on the environment, human health and the shipping and petroleum industries.

The scientific group will also review the consequent impact such fuel options could have on other emissions, including carbon-dioxide emissions from ships and refineries.

He also reported that the results of the naval fuel sulfur monitoring program for 2006 showed that the average sulfur content last year was 2.59 percent, a reduction from 2.70 percent in 2005.

As the three-year (2004-06) rolling average was 2.66 percent, a slight reduction from the previous years' 2.70 percent, he concluded that the fuel sulfur content of ships is continuing a downward trend.

He was followed by representatives from the United States Coast Guard, the Britain Maritime & Coastguard Agency, and Coast Guard of the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and Canada, who introduced their respective situations and experiences.

China's efforts

On behalf of China, senior Shanghai MSA official Chen Bowei analyzed the pros and cons of China entering the Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Cooperation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substance (OPRC-HNS) 2000.

Chen said it is both necessary and feasible for China to ratify the HNS Protocol.

Citing statistics, he said that waterways have already become a major mode of transport for hazardous and noxious substances in China.

Between 2002 and 2006, a total of 442.6 million tons of hazardous and noxious substances were transported by water. The volume of the substance thus transported has grown at an annual rate of 12.5 percent.

The growth has been accompanied by incidents of marine pollution from time to time, he noted.

For example, there were 57 incidents of liquid noxious substance spills between 1991 and 2004. Though the number of pollution incidents is witnessing a downward trend since 2001, the volume of actual spilled substances is increasing.

Despite the four-level emergency response system that China has established to handle oil spills, its capacity for emergency response to hazardous and noxious substance spills is still weak. Chen said China lacks equipment, personnel training and exercise in the sector.

He believes China should ratify the HNS Protocol, because it can improve the domestic legislation and emergency response mechanism.

As the protocol requires each contracting party to have a minimum level of response equipment, it can also help enhance the country's emergency response capability.

The government should invest heavily to purchase emergency response equipment, and strengthen personnel training and exercise, he advised.

He also suggested that the government should make use of opportunities like the Shanghai International Maritime Forum, Northwest Pacific Oil Spills Pollution Action Plan, and the channels of IMO, to learn about other countries' advanced experiences.

Source:China Daily



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