07 Dec 2023
by Dr Sam Andrews

IMarEST sitting on top table at the IMO

IMarEST Fellow, chartered engineer, and IMarEST’s delegate on Fuels and Exhaust Emissions, Andy Wright, talks us through IMarEST’s role at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Although IMarEST members normally have full-time jobs elsewhere, their extensive competence and experience in their particular field, together with the knowledge of IMarEST’s policy objectives and positioning, means they are often ideal candidates to represent the Institute at the IMO.

“IMarEST has confidence in our experience and knowledge, and on that basis, we represent the Institute, not ourselves, at these forums,” explains Wright.

A representative’s work is ongoing but gathers momentum as a new meeting approaches.

“Before each meeting, I review all those papers that are in my area of interest and share those findings with Dr Lorenzo Casarosa (IMarEST’s Policy and Professional Engagement Manager and permanent representative at the IMO) and inform him of the line that I propose to take on them. Over the many years of doing this, we have never had any disagreement on that.”

The representative then attends the meeting in person, discussing potential amendments to conventions, codes, guidelines, and other matters relating to the meeting’s remit.

“This is usually a very dynamic process. No matter how far one has prepared, there needs to be a lot of ‘thinking on [your] feet’ in order to move matters forward. Or, of course, you could always sit it out in the background, but that’s not me,” says Wright.

“After the meeting, I give my feedback to IMarEST in the form of a commentary on the outcomes. Part of that will be to identify Intersessional Correspondence Groups (ICGs) in which we should participate or items which we could perhaps put in a paper at the next meeting.”

The importance of submitting papers 

Wright says the preparation of papers for consideration at future meetings can be an important part of a delegate representative’s involvement, which also contributes to IMarEST’s standing within the IMO community and the industry stakeholders.

Over the years, Wright has generated multiple types of papers. Some address a new work item or an identified problem, others look to move forward an ongoing issue, such as with black carbon in the Arctic where this pollutant is accelerating the melting of ice and snow.

Indeed, an outline proposal submitted to the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) by IMarEST on black carbon currently forms the basis of a voluntary monitoring programme being considered for adoption.

A third type of Wright’s papers provide improved text to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

“Of course, before any IMarEST paper can be submitted to IMO, it needs to get the approval of the institute’s Technical Leadership Board (TLB), which may, in turn, engage with the relevant Special Interest Group (SIG) for input,” Wright explains.

IMarEST’s established procedures and protocols ensure content quality and short turnaround times.

Confidence in independence 

Although formal power within IMO lies with the member states, many other stakeholders are represented and participate in the meetings as international non-governmental organisations (INGOs): IMarEST is accredited as an INGO with consultative status at the IMO.

These INGOs, which come from a wide range of industry organisations and civic society groupings, provide specialist knowledge and perspectives often crucial to achieving robust and workable outcomes.

“As a learned body, [IMarEST] represents the engineers, scientists, and technologists who work within the marine environment,” says Wright. “We’re not there as a member state, or a ‘pressure group’, or with something to sell.”

That independence and the reputation established in many years gives the IMarEST weight at the meetings.

“We might say exactly the same as what may be said by the bunkering industry, for example, but people are going to be listening to them saying, ‘Yeah, but they would say that, wouldn’t they.’ Whereas when we say it, it is recognised that it comes from an independent, expert position,” says Wright.

“I might also modestly suggest that there’s a certain amount of recognition of our experience, and we are known to contribute in a solid and knowledgeable manner. That goes a long way.”

Read more: Navigating global waters - IMarEST's international representation

Main image: The International Maritime Organization near Lambeth bridge; Credit: Shutterstock