Nuclear fears addressed by stringent maritime legislation says MAJ
Nuclear transportation at sea can be safely managed as long as shippers stringently comply with IMO and other international legislation, advises the head of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).
Fears over the transportation of nuclear cargoes through Caribbean waters, particularly as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal, were addressed during lively debates at a well-attended conference organised by the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, recently.
Rigorous international maritime legislation is in place to manage risk, ensure safety of life and protect the environment, explained Rear Admiral (ret’d) Peter Brady, MAJ Director General, during his keynote address.
Due to the sensitive nature of nuclear policies in the Caribbean, this one-day seminar took almost five years to organise. “It has been a topical issue, one that has stirred many interests, some in support and others against,” said Admiral Brady. “The fact that it is taking place at all demonstrates that the Caribbean acknowledges its rights and responsibilities regarding the management of shipments of nuclear cargo. I am pleased, therefore, that the seminar looks at the broad picture – encompassing how nuclear technology benefits Jamaica and the Caribbean, global and regional energy needs, and safety and regulatory issues.”
Discussing the safety and regulatory aspects of transporting nuclear materials, Admiral Brady said: “Kingston is one of the largest trans-shipment ports in the Caribbean and, with the recent expansion of the Panama Canal allowing larger vessels to cross the Isthmus, new economic opportunities have arisen here and in the region in general. I think we can safely say that maritime traffic through the Caribbean will continue to expand in the future.”
Jamaica is a member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which is responsible for the legislation of the global maritime sector. Addressing the meeting, Admiral Brady outlined the key IMO regulations which protect the environment and manage the safe operation of international shipping. “It is critically important that these international rules, which are treaties that member States sign, are not only enshrined into our domestic legislation, but also that we have competent persons in our respective maritime administrations to ensure their compliance by ships,” he said.
He commented: “Today, a lot of attention is being given to the development of the Blue Economy and, also to UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is clear to me that the maritime sector has a central role to play in these important areas. The oceans are a shared resource in so far as many different sectors utilise them – shipping, fisheries, energy, cabling, leisure and so on.
“In the Caribbean, we really are blessed by the surrounding ocean which is a resource that helps to feed us, enhance livelihoods and well-being and allows us to reap the many benefits of maritime trade. Maritime trade delivers the benefits of mankind’s industry and allows society to progress.
“The challenge will be to balance these economic demands with the need to take care of the natural environment,” he said.
Admiral Brady told the seminar: “From a practical point of view, the global order that we have created together means that we need not be alarmed by the fact that a growing proportion of shipping moving through our region, to or from the Panama Canal, is carrying hazardous cargo. The common standards that have been painstakingly developed and which apply to the ships, the crews and the cargo can give us assurance that these shipments are carried out safely.”
Pointing out that shippers must comply with the regulations of the IMO and also the International Atomic Energy Agency, another United Nations body, Admiral Brady said: “By working together, these UN bodies ensure that what might sound problematic to some is actually a carefully and safely conceived shipping operation which is governed by rules and standards of international conventions that are in effect treaties which become domestic law.”
He added: “Modern life is highly complex. Issues intersect. If we are to reap the benefits of technology, we have to manage risks – including maritime risks – in an intelligent manner. From my vantage point, our national and international regulatory system has created the foundation or platform that will allow society to continue to advance in a sustainable manner. We have the institutions and we have a solid regulatory framework.”