IMO-WMU Conference on Protecting the Ocean - Moving Forward at 50: London Convention & Stockholm Declaration
From 10-13 October, world leading experts on Maritime Law and Law of the Sea contributed to the IMO-WMU Joint International Academic Conference: Protecting the Ocean - Moving forward at 50: London Convention & Stockholm Declaration, hosted at the World Maritime University (WMU). The intent was to help raise awareness and discuss ocean- and climate-related topics under the framework of the London Convention and Stockholm Declaration's 50th anniversaries with the objective to achieve new research insights and establish impactful actions.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the WMU – Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute (GOI), and The Nippon Foundation were the primary co-sponsors of the conference that included topical papers focused on the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention) and the 1972 Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration), as well as invaluable perspectives from distinguished expert commentators from Government Ministries, UN Agencies and Programmes, International and Regional Organizations, Academic Institutions and Civil Society.
Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, WMU President, welcomed the participants. She highlighted that the London Convention & Stockholm Declaration were the grounds for our current system of global environmental governance. However, she noted that international environmental institutions lack adequate funding and effective enforcement mechanisms. In addition, individual States are reluctant to relinquish their sovereignty and rights to pursue their own national interests, which has consequently not resulted in a reversal of trends and patterns of global environmental degradation. “This leaves us on a path toward a devastating ecological crisis. We need to strengthen the global institutions, we need the public and private sectors, the civil society actors, and individual citizens and consumers to take on far more responsibilities for environmental governance,“ said President Doumbia-Henry. More than anything else, we need effective capacity development across the Global South, so that no one is left behind.
Mr Arsenio Dominguez, Director of the IMO’s Marine Environment Division delivered the opening keynote saying, “This conference is an opportunity to focus not on what has been achieved and how we have done it, but to take that experience into what comes next.” He spoke of the significance of the London Convention & Stockholm Declaration that recognized the importance of protecting the ocean and have become the basis for successive, related efforts such as a plastic agreement discussion and GHG reduction initiatives. “We all depend on the ocean, and we need to approach it in a sustainable manner, take responsibility for damage caused, and take necessary measures for member States to protect it,” said Mr Dominguez.
World leading experts on Maritime Law and Law of the Sea contributed to the conference programme on topics that included: Retrospective on London Convention & Stockholm Declaration, Science & Technology, International & Regional Approaches, Jurisdictional Issues, Capacity Building & Technology Transfer, and Contemporary Issues & Future Development. Well over 600 participants joined the hybrid event that was offered both online and in-person.
Keynote speeches were delivered by Ambassador Nancy Karigithu, Principal Secretary and Special Envoy for Maritime and Blue Economy for the State Department of Maritime and Shipping Affairs of Kenya, and Ambassador Rena Lee, President of the BBNJ Conference and Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues and Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Singapore. Ambassador Karigithu highlighted that more effective governance, capacity building and implementation are required to protect our ocean. Ambassador Lee drew on the similarities between the negotiation of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement and the London Convention and Stockholm Protocol that are all mutually grounded in conservation of the ocean. She emphasized the vital importance of facilitating, encouraging and enhancing close cooperation across all concerned parties in order to meet the monumental objective of protecting our ocean.
Professor Ronan Long, Director of the GOI, said that the conference findings indicated that there were significant accomplishments over the past fifty years in protecting the marine environment, but that there is much more work to be done in order to ensure a sustainable future for the ocean and humanity. Many calls were made for ratification and implementation of the landmark London Convention and its 1996 Protocol. The clear message was that ensuring the protection of our ocean is not a task only for governments, politicians, and organizations. The responsibility also lies with every person on this planet to reduce waste, make informed and sustainable choices, and make their voice heard so we all demand, and ensure a sustainable future for our ocean, and ultimately ourselves.
More about the Stockholm Declaration, London Convention, and Onwards
The Stockholm Declaration, which contained 26 principles, placed environmental problems at the forefront of international concerns. It marked the start of a dialogue between industrialized and developing countries on the link between economic growth, the pollution of the air, water, oceans, and the well-being of people around the world. The 1972 Conference also adopted an Action Plan for the Human Environment, containing 109 recommendations for action at the international level. Recommendation 86(c) called for an international regime to regulate dumping, and the London Convention was duly concluded in the same year. The London Convention is the first binding international agreement to prevent illegal dumping in all marine areas outside internal waters. It is strengthened by the 1996 Protocol bringing in the precautionary approach to regulating dumping. Effectively, all dumping of waste at sea is prohibited except for those on a ‘reserve list’. It is anticipated that the London Protocol will replace the London Convention over time.
Since then, the development of modern international environmental law has been one of the more remarkable exercises in contemporary international law-making. This includes the comprehensive framework for marine environmental protection articulated in Part XII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, Rio Declaration of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the much anticipated global treaty on plastic pollution.
For photos from the conference, click here.
My decision to enroll in the doctoral program at WMU was heavily influenced by my prior experience as a Master's student at the institution. Initially introduced to me as a preeminent global institution for maritime education, WMU's stellar reputation was further substantiated by the exceptional quality of education I received during my Master’s studies. This experience became a compelling factor in my determination to return to WMU as a doctoral student. Recognizing the synergies between my research aspirations and the institutional offerings at WMU, I concluded that continuing my educational journey at this esteemed institution was not only beneficial but also aligned perfectly with my academic and professional goals.
My research explored the theoretical foundations of governance, placing a particular emphasis on maritime governance. Going beyond mere theoretical frameworks, the study conducted a comprehensive examination of a crucial aspect within maritime governance—specifically, the implementation of International Maritime Organization (IMO) instruments, exploring the contextual factors that affect the implementation process. Applying the grounded theory methodology, the research aimed to understand these theoretical underpinnings, as well as firmly anchor insights in the practical context of maritime governance; unveiling the intricacies and challenges associated with the effective implementation of IMO instruments in the maritime domain. The selection of this topic was motivated by a personal interest that was cultivated during my Master’s studies in maritime law and policy. Furthermore, it was driven by the recognition of a scarcity of scientific research on this specific topic. This gap in the existing body of knowledge served as a catalyst for my exploration, underscoring the significance of contributing valuable insights to an area of maritime governance that has been relatively underrepresented in scholarly research.
Undoubtedly, a highlight of my educational journey at WMU was the opportunity to forge connections with influential change-makers and thought leaders hailing from every corner of the globe. This invaluable chance to engage with individuals on an international scale has not only enabled me to expand my global network but has also served as a conduit for immersing myself in the rich tapestry of diverse cultures. Through these global interactions, I've gained a profound understanding of different perspectives, traditions, and approaches, contributing significantly to my personal and academic growth. This experience goes beyond mere networking and has also played a pivotal role in fostering stronger connections within the Caribbean region from which I hail.
Embarking on my professional path, my foremost aim is to establish myself as an authority in the field of maritime governance. I aspire to leave a significant and enduring mark on the global maritime landscape. Beyond the academic sphere, my drive is fuelled by a passionate interest in pursuing diverse opportunities within the maritime domain and the broader educational sector and contributing significantly to positive transformations in the global maritime sector.
I was primarily attracted to WMU for its prestigious standing as a global leader in maritime education and research. The institution's emphasis on sustainability and its diverse international student body were particularly appealing. My research, which focuses on the transition of ports toward low and near-zero carbon emissions, perfectly aligns with WMU's dedication to sustainable maritime practices. This common vision made WMU the ideal choice for advancing my academic and professional aspirations in the maritime industry.
A significant highlight of my time at WMU has been the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of experts and peers from various corners of the globe. This international environment has broadened my perspective on maritime issues and fostered a rich exchange of ideas. It has been a rewarding experience to engage in discussions, share insights, and work collectively toward innovative solutions to complex maritime challenges.
Post-graduation, I am committed to applying the knowledge and research expertise I've acquired at WMU to make a meaningful impact in the maritime sector. My plans involve actively contributing to the sustainable transformation of the industry by focusing on the implementation of greener and more efficient port operations. I aim to play a part in fostering a cleaner and more sustainable future for ports and shipping on a global scale.
The fact that the World Maritime University (WMU) is a global ocean institute of excellence piqued my initial interest. However, my decision to join the WMU team was solidified with the announcement of the Closing the Circle Scholarship. This incredible opportunity allowed me to study with a diverse team of ocean leaders and facilitated important research for the Wider Caribbean Region.
My research focused on spatiotemporal analyses of climate change driven sargassum blooms in the Tropical Atlantic. Since the onset of mass sargassum blooms in 2011, Caribbean countries have experienced multiscale negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts. Evidence suggests that influx events are driven by ocean eutrophication and climate change and are likely to continue into the foreseeable future leaving countries with no choice but to adapt to their new reality. Against this backdrop, the research assessed changes in the biodiversity, morphotype composition and arsenic content of incoming sargassum rafts and identified sustainable solutions/management interventions.
It is said that you cannot achieve anything entirely by yourself, this is especially true of a PhD. Thankfully, in a place so far from home, I was fortunate to have a team of strong, dependable, caring and intelligent Caribbean women to complete this journey with me. Sharing this incredible milestone with them has been without a doubt the most impactful and memorable part of my PhD journey at WMU.
After dedicating the last 3 years of my life to achieving one goal, I must admit that I've had a slight case of tunnel vision. Ideally I would like to continue in the world of research and academia, however, my unknown future is in the hands of the all-knowing God.
The Closing The Circle Programme: Marine Debris and Sargassum in the Eastern Caribbean drew me into the World Maritime University (WMU) as it was specifically aligned and tailored to my research interests and experiences and offered the flexibility for me to expand on ongoing research on the subject matter that I had already been working on. A highlight of studying at WMU has been building relationships within the university and maturing in my faith and academics.
My research assessed governance barriers facing Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in their ability to equitably participate in the development of the global plastics treaty. I chose this topic because Caribbean SIDS are disproportionately affected by mass influxes of marine plastics to their coastlines and lack various capacity needs to address the issue. After graduation, I'll be continuing work through my non-profit organization, Bahamas Plastic Movement, and will employ aspects of my PhD research towards addressing the plastic pollution crisis in the Caribbean.
I was attracted to the World Maritime University (WMU) in Sweden simply due to the opportunity to research the transboundary challenges of marine litter in the Eastern Caribbean. My specific research focus on the Windward Islands allowed me to contribute solutions to a region I am deeply connected to.
Marine litter poses significant threats to Caribbean Small Island Developing States, affecting marine ecosystems, tourism, fisheries and other local economies, and the health of the communities. My choice to focus on this crisis was driven by the urgency to shed light on its magnitude, propose sustainable solutions, and advocate for more global efforts in addressing this pressing environmental issue.
Studying at WMU provided a multifaceted experience that extended beyond just academics, and there are two highlights worth mentioning to represent this. One, the amazing opportunity for intercultural exchange. I had the privilege of collaborating with researchers and experts from around the globe. This diverse gathering not only facilitated a unique learning environment but also opened doors to share varied perspectives. This exchange was instrumental to my research and learning process and enriched my career path. I found myself collaborating with and even speaking alongside some of the most respected experts in the field on renowned panels. Two, is a particularly exhilarating experience which was representing the university in the UN interagency games in 2022. I was honored to be a part of the first women's team from WMU. Against expectations, I managed to place third in my backstroke category, even though it was my first time participating in competitive swimming. Our team's dedication and hard work culminated in a podium finish, as we secured third place overall.
Post-graduation, my professional trajectory, initially aimed singularly at university teaching in Grenada, has evolved to include curricula development on marine conservation topics at various educational levels, aspiring to inspire the next generation. While my zeal for academia remains steadfast, my aspirations have broadened to encompass policy advocacy. My research, highlighting the striking linkages between marine litter and the overarching climate crisis, has fortified my resolve to employ these insights toward tangible change. Now, as I pivot towards a more policy-oriented role, I aim to work collaboratively with policymakers. My focus will be on underlining the Caribbean's unique environmental challenges, advocating for climate compensation, and concurrently influencing educational approaches on marine issues.
I was attracted to the World Maritime University by the “Closing the Circle Programme”, the aims of which matched my interests, experience and expertise. The programme was co-designed with Eastern Caribbean leaders and focused on marine environmental challenges with a global reach but a regional focus. This was an important element for me as it provided an opportunity to contribute to research which had the potential to deliver meaningful research impact beyond academia. WMU has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The staff and faculty are experienced and very helpful. It has also been an extremely gratifying experience to collaborate with and learn from my colleagues from all over the world.
My research focused on abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), also called derelict fishing gear, in the context of Eastern Caribbean small-scale fisheries. The main aim of the thesis was to understand the barriers to effective governance of the challenge, with a view to identifying mechanisms for overcoming these. The research was undertaken through a three-pronged approach focused first on identifying the nature of the challenge in the Eastern Caribbean, followed by outlining challenges to governance and finally proposing recommendations for improvement.
My immediate plans after graduation are to return to Antigua and to my previous job at the Fisheries Division where I can, hopefully, continue to work on researching this topic. In the long term, my hope is to transition to academia.
I chose the World Maritime University for my PhD studies in Maritime Affairs because of several reasons, including its academic reputation and strong postgraduate degrees in maritime and ocean science-related programmes, a range of international modules, and the diverse group of students and faculty members. WMU is in Sweden, one of the EU countries with the best gender equality ranking worldwide. As a woman in marine science who faced several challenges in the industry, I was mainly attracted to the Empowering Women for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development programme offered at the university. This unique programme aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in ocean science to increase women’s participation in ocean science and advance the sustainable management and governance of ocean spaces and maritime activities at all levels through capacity building.
My research topic focused on evaluating gender equality in ocean science for Sustainable development in Kenya. The primary aim of this study was to examine gender equality in ocean science institutions in Kenya, using the existing institutional gender policies, gender-disaggregated data of students and staff, the experiences and barriers faced by students and staff in this field as well as the good practices that the institutions already have to promote gender equality. The issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment are generally relevant for ocean governance because they bring diverse perspectives, skills and solutions to management and sustainability. I chose this research topic to understand the root causes of gender inequalities and persistent biases in the ocean science sector to make invisible voices and contributions of women in ocean science visible and to ensure women or marginalized groups are included in decision-making and policy-making processes as the primary users of marine resources.
I have had a fantastic journey and an incredible and rewarding experience at WMU. Studying here came with many blessings and was one of the best decisions I have ever made. First, my supervisors were resourceful, outstanding and very supportive, who dedicated their time to mentor and guide my research work. Their guidance, advice, motivation, kindness, understanding and support were instrumental and helped me achieve my academic goals to reach where I am today. Second, the university has a strong family bond, is well-organized, and embraces teamwork, and I received immense support from the GOI and WMU secretariat. Also, I managed to interact with many students from different nationalities, exchanged ideas and discovered/learned a lot of things from the various cultures, especially during the annual celebration of the WMU International Day, made new friends from around the world, expanded my network and immensely improved my global view.
After graduation, I plan to expand my network and find a job that includes both academic and practice-oriented research to continue advocating for gender equality in ocean science. Also, I plan to develop a policy brief for the ocean science institutions in Kenya as a guide for promoting gender equality in ocean science both in higher education and employing agencies. My natural science background will also open doors to explore and work in freshwater and marine environments.
It had always been exciting for me to pursue research on maritime law affairs in a well-known maritime institute. To that end, the World Maritime University (WMU) appeared the best choice. Undoubtedly, the academic community and cordial non-academic staff have made WMU not only a great university for studying but also a pleasant place for living.
My research interest lies in the recognition of the effects of foreign judicial sales of ships, more precisely, the recognition of the purchaser’s title obtained in a judicial sale. This is essential to the realization of claims on a ship, which to a large degree depends on a sale obtaining a market price of the ship. Without the prospect that a judicial sale will finalize with a title binding everyone, potential bidders would probably not offer such a price. Against this backdrop, an international convention has been concluded to bridge the gap in the protection for purchasers in judicial sales. Considering the importance of the role shipping plays in international trade as well as the high value of ships as assets, I find this topic worth exploring.
A highlight of studying at WMU was the celebration dinner after my defense. The cheering card on the table, the tasty food, and most importantly the people who had supported me all the way sitting around me that very day, made an unforgettable and joyful end to the four-years’ journey. I still and will always remember that touching moment.
My plan now is to continue my journey in the legal world. After graduation, I will be a postdoc and teacher in law at a high education institution, sharing and using what I have learned at WMU.
When I made the decision to embark on the journey of pursuing both my MSc and PhD degrees, the World Maritime University (WMU) beckoned me for several compelling reasons. Foremost among these was WMU's sterling reputation as a world-class institution within the maritime sphere, a factor that wielded significant influence over my choice. Given my extensive background as a senior professional in the maritime operational field, having held the role of a captain, I was in search of an academic environment that could serve as a nexus for both enriching my knowledge and providing a platform for the dissemination of my wealth of industry experience.
WMU's unwavering commitment to maritime education, coupled with its resolute emphasis on bridging the realms of academia and industry, deeply resonated with me. It became evident that WMU was the perfect crucible for my transformation from a career entrenched in maritime operations to one flourishing within academia. The University's storied tradition of nurturing and producing experts and leaders within the maritime sector further solidified its standing as the ideal choice for my educational pursuits.Furthermore, WMU's distinctive interdisciplinary approach to maritime studies served as an irresistible attraction.
My research focus during my tenure at WMU was centered on the pivotal subject of achieving net-zero emissions in the maritime sector, encompassing both offshore and onshore infrastructures, including ports and shipyards. This particular research avenue held great appeal for me due to its unique capacity to amalgamate my extensive practical experience as a captain within the maritime operational field with the rigorous academic environment provided by WMU. The maritime industry is inherently dynamic, constantly undergoing transformative changes, and I was deeply convinced that my research endeavors could significantly contribute to enhancing sustainability within this vital sector. The prospect of influencing positive change by addressing contemporary challenges and emerging trends in the maritime industry, all closely aligned with my professional background, served as a compelling motivation for my choice of research focus.
One of the most memorable aspects of my WMU experience has undoubtedly been the University's vibrant and inclusive interdisciplinary environment. Engaging with both faculty members and fellow students hailing from diverse backgrounds and nationalities has been an incredibly enriching facet of my academic journey. This inclusive atmosphere has offered me a unique opportunity to gain fresh insights and perspectives that would have remained undiscovered within the confines of a purely industry-focused setting. The collaborative exchange of ideas across various maritime disciplines has proven to be invaluable, expanding my horizons and enriching my educational experience. Additionally, the regular involvement in thoughtful discussions, seminars, and workshops focused on globally relevant maritime topics has served as a consistent source of inspiration throughout my time at WMU. The University’s unwavering dedication to cultivating a global network of maritime experts has allowed me to establish meaningful connections with professionals and scholars from across the world. These connections have not only broadened my academic horizons but have also added a global dimension to my educational journey, enhancing its depth and significance.
Upon graduation, I was awarded a prestigious research fellowship in sustainability, energy, and the pursuit of net-zero emissions within the maritime industry at the esteemed University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. This exciting opportunity marks the next phase of my academic and maritime journey. I remain passionately committed to continuing my exploration of academia and the maritime sector, building upon the invaluable knowledge and experience I acquired during my time at WMU. My primary objective is to contribute significantly to the advancement of the zero-emission maritime industry, a pivotal and transformative sector within our global community.