By: EQUIPO MTCC LATIN AMERICA: Aricel Arauz, Javier Díaz y Ervin Vargas

The Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre for Latin America (MTCC LATIN AMERICA) is one of the five (5) specialised centres that form part of the Global MTCCs Network (GMN), established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and supported by the European Community to promote the adoption of new technologies and energy-efficient operating practices on board ships, thereby reducing harmful emissions and their devastating effects on the environment.

In this sense, the MTCC LATIN AMERICA, together with the other MTCCs, has been designed to raise environmental awareness and build capacity in their respective regions on applicable climate change mitigation measures. Consequently, the MTCC LATIN AMERICA is developing awareness and training activities for all key partners and stakeholders, as well as pilot projects to promote technology transfer and the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I). The International Maritime University of Panama (UMIP) was selected by the IMO in 2017 as the host institution for the MTCC LATIN AMERICA, taking advantage of its strategic location and proximity to the main ports of the country and the Latin American region, as well as the administrative offices of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) and other active members of the maritime cluster in the country and the region. The main key players in the Latin American region include 20 maritime administrations, regional maritime port organisations, shipping and port operators, training centres, shipyards and private technology development entities.

The year 2023 is an opportune time to continue regional efforts to promote sustainable development in maritime transport, as it will be 50 years since the adoption of the MARPOL Convention in 1973, which was an important step in focusing the attention of the international shipping industry on environmental protection. 

The adoption of MARPOL reflected a growing global awareness of the environmental impact of an increasingly industrialised world and it is clear that MARPOL was also, in a sense, a response by IMO Member States to the devastating consequences of accidents such as the Torrey Canyon disaster. 

After several updates of the MARPOL Convention, the IMO's objectives of "safer shipping and cleaner oceans" have since been consolidated. Today, MARPOL is recognised as the most important set of international rules for the prevention of marine pollution from ships. Over the years, the Convention has expanded its scope to address new challenges posed by shipping and to respond to global societal expectations, such as the demand for clean air and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the MARPOL Convention has been regulating the environmental impact of shipping for decades, its environmental work has never been more relevant in the modern context. And it will become even more so in the years to come, as the sustainable development of shipping becomes not only an IMO priority, but a global imperative on which our future depends. We can therefore see changing environmental expectations as both a challenge and an opportunity for the maritime industry. 

The new era of ships must provide a continuous response to the needs of society, industry and global commerce, and operate within a framework that fosters a culture that promotes green technologies that go beyond mere compliance with legal requirements. Undoubtedly, MARPOL is a pillar and catalyst for a whole new generation of more efficient and sustainable ships.

The Global Maritime Theme 2023 "50 Years of MARPOL: Our Commitment Continues" provides an excellent opportunity for the entire international maritime community to discuss the legacy of these 50 years of the MARPOL Convention, while allowing us to build on the existing foundations of cooperation and move forward together towards a more promising future. This Theme 2023 has enabled the MTCC LATIN AMERICA to engage all stakeholders to highlight current and future opportunities to make shipping safer, more efficient and sustainable.

As part of the MTCC LATIN AMERICA's activities in the regional and international promotion of decarbonised maritime transport, training activities have been carried out to address specific issues related to the implementation of MARPOL requirements, in particular Annex VI, which deals with regulations and schemes adopted to ensure a better response at management, operational and technical levels to the challenges of air pollution and climate change. In addition, international events have been held with the IMO and strategic alliances have been established at regional level to jointly contribute to the maritime industry's efforts to create a sustainable culture to promote the adoption of green technologies and policies based on the MARPOL regulations.

One of our most important alliances is with the Network of Women in Maritime Administrations of Latin America (Red MAMLa), which is one of the eight (8) Women's Maritime Sector Associations (WIMA) created in 2017 within the IMO Gender Programme, to create spaces and opportunities that promote the integral development of women in the maritime, port and logistics sectors in the Latin American region, as well as the promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in these sectors, hand in hand with IMO, the administrations that make it up and its strategic partners.

UMIP, through the MTCC LATIN AMERICA, has joined forces with the MAMLa network and other key strategic partners to face global challenges and seek change, based on its commitment to a sustainable maritime and port industry. This cooperation has taken different forms, such as training activities, workshops, seminars, conferences and the development of R&D&I project proposals on the opportunities and barriers to energy, maritime and port transition, specifically on how to transform Latin American ports into green ports and how to implement integrated policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by maritime and port operations.  

In addition, through this active regional cooperation that seeks to assess the current status of public service seaports in Latin America to dimension the main criteria, challenges and opportunities to have greener port facilities, through the proposed development of a Sustainable Port Energy Efficiency Management Plan, considering as main axes: social, economic aspects and policies, current regulations, the human element, infrastructure, available technology, deployment of current port operations and management.

"We will continue to work together as a team for safer, more efficient and sustainable maritime transport".