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Natural and Man-made Hazard Prevention and Management

Last modified June 25, 2010

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The different workshops under the theme highlighted, among other issues: good practices in addressing oil and chemical spills and shipping hazards; climate change impacts, challenges and management responses at the local government level, international instruments addressing invasive aquatic species and ballast water management; global efforts at enhancing awareness on risk assessment and risk management of marine biosafety; regional perspectives on climate change, issues and impacts in East Asia from different sectors; and other related topics.

Government and Industry Partnerships for Effective and Consistent Preparedness Response to Marine Pollution in East Asia

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The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC Convention) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1990 to meet the ongoing need to prevent and minimise the environmental and economic consequences of major tanker accidents and came into force on 13 May 1995. The Convention promotes in its article 10 the bilateral and multilateral co-operation in preparedness and response and, in article 12 (2), requests the Organization to endeavour to strengthen the capacities of States individually or through regional arrangements to prepare for and combat oil pollution incidents.

In East Asia, as in the rest of the world, some areas are at higher risk of oil spills than others. In addition to well-known existing high risk areas such as Malacca Strait, South China Sea and the strait between Korea and Japan, dense traffic of oil tankers and major oil production from Sakhalin and upper Yellow Sea, including Bohai Sea areas, have now to be taken into account.

It is necessary to review the status of oil spill risks in the entire East Asia area on a sub-regional basis and subsequently the strategies relating to oil spill response with a view to drive future actions for improvement of response capability overall, particularly through regional cooperation.

Over this vast region, which encompasses two UNEP "Regional Seas" areas, several multi- and/or bi-lateral regional agreements have been established with the aim of increasing regional capacity for preparedness and response to oil spills and developing mutual assistance and/or joint response operations should a major oil spill occur in the region. Given their diversity, it seems necessary to review the progress of these arrangements, identify success factors and common challenges in order to come up with practical recommendations for strengthening regional co-operation for response to major oil spills.

There are international, regional, and local stakeholders from both government and industry involved in the area of oil spill preparedness and response. There has been good progress since the introduction of OPRC Convention and by the collective efforts of these stakeholders. "Working Together" has been the underpinning principle to the OPRC Convention, this principle can forge greater progress through better integration among these stakeholders.

Finally, in the wake of major tanker incidents in the past few years, the oil spill compensation regime has been dramatically modified. The Bunkers Convention once in force provides much needed coverage for oil pollution arising from bunker spills as the number of such incidents is on the rise. In East Asian countries, the diversity of situations, from compensation coverage to claims management and environmental impacts, demonstrate the need for this session on the recent developments regarding claims and compensation for oil pollution damage.

Meeting Challenges of Climate Change at the Local Level through ICM

Climate change is now widely recognized as a cross-cutting issue, which can severely affect various aspects of sustainable development. Coastal populations are particularly at risk from various impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion, wave surges, and extreme weather events, and must be prepared to meet the challenges to their homes, livelihood and environment.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of environments and activities in the coastal zone, integrated coastal management (ICM) has been advocated by various organizations including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as an appropriate framework/process to deal with climate change and its potential current and long-term impacts in the coastal zone.

Impacts of Climate Change at the Coastal and Ocean Areas of the East Asian Seas Region

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This workshop articulated climate change adaptation and resilience strategies within the context of sustainable development in coastal and marine environment. In particular, the workshop provided participants with an understanding of the types, level and severity of the adverse social and economic impacts of climate change, and outlined actions, initiatives or response measures within and outside EAS region related to climate change adaptation and resilience strategies

Development and Advances on Marine Biosafety in the Context of the CBD

The bulk of world trade in tonnage terms is transported by ships. From an environmental standpoint, shipping like all other modes of transport, has its share of negative environmental impacts such as spillage of oil and hazardous chemicals, emission of greenhouse gases and transfer of invasive species through ballast water and biofouling. International efforts to address the environmental impacts of marine pollution resulted in the ratification, adoption and implementation of environmental instruments as well as the adoptions of codes, resolutions and recommendations, including standards. In recent years, the threat of climate change and the translocation and spread of invasive or pathogenic biological species are the focus of international efforts due to potential transboundary and long-term impacts on a planetary scale. The workshop covered topics that deal with marine biosafety.

Translocation of marine biological species by ships can occur through ballast water exchange and fouling of ship hauls as well as trading of exotic species (marine and estuarine). On ballast water exchange for example, it is estimated that about 10 billion tons of ballast water would contain over 7,000 marine species, mostly microscopic planktons and organisms. The Great Lakes, Caspian Sea, Black Sea and the Pantanal have been affected by invasive species causing havoc to native aquatic species and its environs as well as economic losses to the local fishing industry and coastal tourism. International instruments on ballast water management and antifouling systems have been ratified by several IMO-member States but there is a need to build capacity, enact compatible legislation and apply technology in order to implement the provisions of such instruments at national levels.

East Asia is one of the main sources of translocated species like the mitten crab, Corbula (Asian clam) and Codium (seaweed) and is also a centre of biological diversity (terrestrial and marine). At present, marine biosafety is an emerging concern in the region, particularly with respect to ballast water management for international shipping. The session focused on global actions being carried out by international bodies to address the challenges associated with the translocation of biological species with the aim to create awareness and to enhance national efforts on marine biosafety.