The IMO is advancing efforts to ensure the safe transport of plastic pellets transported on ships, which can cause damage to the marine environment if released into the sea.

Meeting from 19 to 23 February at IMO Headquarters in London, IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 11) agreed on draft recommendations for the carriage of plastic pellets by sea, along with draft guidelines for cleaning up plastic pellet spills from ships.

The draft recommendations for the carriage of plastic pellets by sea in freight containers include the following actions:

  • Plastic pellets should be packed in good quality packaging which should be strong enough to withstand the shocks and loadings normally encountered during transport. Packaging should be constructed and closed to prevent any loss of contents which may be caused under normal conditions of transport, by vibration or acceleration forces.
  • Transport information should clearly identify those freight containers containing plastic pellets. In addition, the shipper should supplement the cargo information with a special stowage request requiring proper stowage.
  • Freight containers containing plastic pellets should be properly stowed and secured to minimize the hazards to the marine environment without impairing the safety of the ship and persons on board. Specifically, they should be stowed under the deck wherever reasonably practicable, or inboard in sheltered areas of exposed decks.

These recommendations, which aim to prevent a spill of pellets from occurring, will be submitted for urgent consideration and approval by the Marine Environment Protection Committee at its next meeting in March 2024 (MEPC 81).

I think many had hoped that these recommendations would go further BUT they are a positive start.

The MEPC is likely to agree on these first steps. As ever the key is in the wording and in our opinion should be stronger. The shipping lobby has toned down the language in the first recommendation to make it ‘normal conditions of transport’. The most visible source of plastic nurdles is containers falling off the ships which this does not cover.,

However, there are other matters in train related to the Plastic Treaty which is moving positively forward and the EU’s own guidance that promises to tighten usage and outlaw most single-use plastic.

There is reason to be optimistic!

More details: here.