Qatar's territorial waters will turn into "Special Sea Area' with effect from today. With the country's coastal water getting the special area status, the ships entering into it will have to strictly comply with international pollution standards.
From today, all marine traffic in Qatar's waters will be strictly regulated. Oil spills, disposal of plastics and discharges of other garbage from ships into the coastal waters will be strictly monitored and prohibited.
With the new status, Qatar's Port officials will also have the right to inspect a foreign flagged vessel if there are clear grounds for believing that the master or crew are not familiar with essential shipboard procedures related to checking pollution.
Though there is no official confirmation from Qatar's side regarding the special area status that is effective from today, the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center (MEMAC)'s official website announced the special area status will come into effect from August 1, 20008. Qatar is a signatory to MEMAC, a regional body which is committed to combating marine pollution.
The new rule came into effect with the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) decision to list Qatar in the "Special Area", along with Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
The IMO's decision to enlist the 'Gulf area' in the especial category forms the part of MARPOL Convention (International convention covering prevention of pollution from ships 1973\78) to combat marine pollution in the critical coastal waters. Qatar, like all the other half a dozen countries, is included as per annex I (oil pollution) and annex V (garbage pollution) of the Convention.
The special hydrographic and ecological characteristics of the fragile marine environment of the region and its particular vulnerability to pollution due to high shipping traffic density is among other major reasons attributed to the "Special Area" status to the Gulf waters.
The region, which produces over 56 percent of the world energy, witnesses the transiting of over 30,000 vessels of different type transiting through its waters annually. In addition to it, a high human activates are going along with the region's coastal and offshore.
The Marpol Convention makes it mandatory that all ships of 4,000 gross tonnage and above and every ship certified to carry 15 persons or more, and every fixed or floating platform engaged in exploration and exploitation of the seabed, must provide a Garbage Record Book, to recorded all disposal and incineration operations.
Talking to The Peninsula during one of the preparatory meetings held in Doha early this year, MEMAC's director Captain A Munem M Al Janahi said that the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) had already requested IMO to ensure that only the vessels that maintain this specific standard are trafficking through Gulf waters.
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