The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recognises 25 June each year as Seafarers’ Day. This day is an opportunity to honour the role of seafarers in a global industry that contributes greatly to the movement of supplies and goods around the world.




This year, the IMO celebrates the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which requires the prevention of pollution of the marine environment from ships, whether operational or accidental. This year’s campaign therefore focuses on the contribution of seafarers to the protection of the marine environment.


Raising awareness of marine pollution is a recurring and important theme here on St Helena. For instance, just recently on World Oceans Day on Thursday 8 June, the Marine Environment Management Plan was published, which heavily featured actions and mitigations around marine pollution.


Over the past year, staff from SHG and other organisations on the Island have also taken part in anti-pollution training, and a Pollution Preparedness and Response Working Group has been formed. This includes representatives from across SHG and has been tasked with developing and implementing plans for dealing with pollution incidents.


As seafarers are a key part of the solution to protecting the marine environment, Merril Lawrence, who served on the ex-RMS St Helena, shared his own experience of complying with the MARPOL Convention:


“As Second Engineer on board the RMS St Helena, I was responsible for ensuring compliance with the MARPOL Convention. The MARPOL Convention requires that all movements of fuel, lubricating oil, sludge and bilge water must be accurately recorded in an oil register and retained for inspection. The Convention also stipulates that bilge water containing more than 15 parts per million of oil must not be discharged into the sea.”


“In practice, an oily water separator is used to separate the oil residues from the bilge water. The water is then pumped overboard through an oil-in-water monitoring system and the oil residues are pumped to a sludge tank which is stored for disposal ashore at an approved waste treatment centre. When the bilge water is discharged, all GPS positions are recorded and the amount of bilge water is discharged into the sea.”


“I will always remember my first major responsibility, which was to operate and maintain the oil/water separator and pump bilge water overboard in accordance with strict requirements. It was a very frightening experience when I considered the consequences if I discharged oil overboard, or if for some reason the oil/water separator was not maintained in good working order. If this process went wrong, I would be responsible for the environmental damage, the ship would be detained with a hefty fine and I could potentially go to jail. It was at this stage that I really started to appreciate what we have here in St Helena. As a child I took it all for granted. The sea and the outdoors are unique. After travelling and studying in the UK I realised how special St Helena is. I remember working a lot of overtime on the machinery, maintaining and repairing it, to keep the ship in compliance with MARPOL regulations and able to sail.”


“Recently, in my current role with Connect St Helena, I attended the Pollution Response and Preparedness training organised by SHG and it brought it all back to what we did during my 18 year career at sea. I’m happy to see the progress we’ve made in marine awareness and pollution prevention on the Island, but it’s also shocking to see the amount of plastic waste washing up on our coastline compared to 10 years ago. I think it’s important that we all understand and help to protect our environment before it’s too late to reverse the damage or effects of marine pollution.”



#StHelena #OceansWorthProtecting #SeafarersDay #MarinePollutionAwareness

26 June 2023