First appeared: The Malta Independent Daily, Friday, 15 April 2011
The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) has for well over three decades played a prominent role in the advancement of maritime standards and environmental protection in the Mediterranean region.
This challenge is all the more real in the Mediterranean Sea, which has a high traffic density while also being a semi-enclosed sea and therefore far more vulnerable to the effects of pollution. REMPEC’s scope has evolved over the years in line with a growing public awareness of the responsibility we all share for protecting the seas through effective management of maritime and marine resources.
The centre has its roots in the establishment of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) in 1975, following the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – Regional Seas Programme. MAP was the first such Action Plan to be implemented, and set out with the aim to assess and control marine pollution, to assist Mediterranean countries in formulating their national environment policies, to improve the ability of governments to identify better options for alternative patterns of development, and to optimise the choices for allocation of resources.
It was in 1976, within this MAP framework, that the Regional Oil Combating Centre (ROCC) for the Mediterranean Sea – REMPEC’s predecessor – was set up in Malta. ROCC was the first such regional centre in the world and, after 11 years of operation, its mandate was expanded to include “hazardous substances other than oil.”
In 1989, once the centre’s new objectives and functions were approved, it assumed its present name: Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC). REMPEC, like ROCC before it, is administered by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and operates on the basis of the decisions of the contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention which also provide its core funding.
In 2001, REMPEC’s objectives and functions were further modified, this time in view of the adoption of the new Protocol concerning Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and, in Cases of Emergency, Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea (Prevention and Emergency Protocol).
This new protocol, which was adopted on 25 January 2002 in Malta and entered into force on 17 March 2004, sets the main principles of co-operation in dealing with threats to the marine environment, the coasts and related interests of the contracting parties posed by accidental releases or by accumulations of small, operational discharges, of oil or other harmful substances.
As a Regional Activity Centre of the Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP), REMPEC assists the Mediterranean coastal states in ratifying, transposing, implementing and enforcing international maritime conventions related to the prevention of, preparedness for and response to marine pollution from ships.
In fulfilling these duties, REMPEC actively promotes regional co-operation and dialogue in the field of prevention of, preparedness for and response to pollution of the marine environment from ships, thereby establishing a platform for conducting co-ordinated actions at national, regional and global levels. These efforts tie in and are supported by REMPEC’s work towards providing a framework for the exchange of information on operational, technical, scientific, legal and financial matters.
In 2004, the European Commission (EC) approached the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to develop a Euro-Mediterranean (Euromed) cooperation project on maritime safety and prevention of pollution from ships (SafeMed) within the framework of the Euromed Transport Forum. REMPEC was identified as the most appropriate regional institution for the implementation of the SafeMed Project considering its links with the IMO and the important role the centre plays in this field within the framework of UNEP’s MAP.
In view of the results of the first phase of the project which extended from 2006 to 2009, the EC has decided to entrust REMPEC with the second phase, SafeMed II, which will extend until the end of 2011. REMPEC has been hosted in Malta since its establishment in 1976.
In December 2007, however, the centre moved from its former offices in Manoel Island and began operating from offices situated at ‘Maritime House’, Lascaris Wharf, Valletta, which were made available and renovated by the Government of Malta. The ‘Maritime House’ building enjoys a prominent location in the Grand Harbour while also providing more modern office facilities.
Visit rempec.org for further information on the centre’s history as well as relevant information concerning REMPEC, its legal framework, its mandate, its activities, and detailed information resources pages providing documentation related to the activities implemented by the centre