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Victoria University Lecturer Bevan Marten has criticised New Zealand’s failure to ratify an international convention which limits pollution from ships as “embarrassing.”
New Zealand is one of only four countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that have not ratified Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.
Annex VI was introduced in 1997. It sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances. 88 other countries have ratified the convention.
In a research article published in 2016, Marten stated that “the country has not overlooked this development on the basis that it has an equivalent, or even a more stringent set of laws, and has therefore declined to support a lesser international standard.”
In a press release, the Ministry of Transport stated that it has begun work to investigate whether NZ should ratify Annex VI, and had committed to provide advice to government on the issue by September 2017. The statement pointed out that “New Zealand has a modest level of maritime traffic compared to other international levels.”
Marten has said he will “keep the pressure on” until the convention is ratified. “All that they are saying is that it’s going to be looked into, they will consult with the industry, and see what they recommend. […] It’s modest, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to address it. Maritime transport is a globally significant — if not the largest — contributor to air pollution.”
In addition to the environmental impacts of air pollution, New Zealand’s inaction on the issue may pose significant health risks.
“The ship emissions release sulphur oxide, which is a known carcinogen. […] The World Health Organisation standard for sulphur oxide emissions has been breached at the Port of Auckland from time to time. […] It’s a known human health risk, so even if it’s not a massive amount of shipping, if you were at Auckland waterfront, it’s something you’d want to be addressing.”