A key International Maritime Organization （IMO）-supported international center responsible for co-ordinating efforts to protect the marine environment in the north-west Pacific Ocean is to expand its areas of work, following a high-level meeting in Seoul.
MERRAC （the Marine Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response Regional Activity Center）, is the focus for cooperation between China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation on preventing spills, and ensuring an effective joint response to any spills that do occur in the region.
According to the UN body, at the latest meeting of focal points （28-30 August）, the four countries agreed to enhance their cooperation by identifying new areas of work for MERRAC, such as monitoring illegal discharges under IMO’s MARPOL convention, including by use of unmanned aircraft, and developing additional response manuals for managing spills involving hazardous and noxious substances （HNS）, such as gasoline or liquefied gas.
These new work streams are expected to start in 2020, it said.
MERRAC was established in 2000 by IMO, UN Environment and the Republic of Korea under UN Environment’s Regional Seas Program. Hosted in the Republic of Korea, it is one of four Regional Activity Centres operating within the Northwest Pacific Action Plan （NOWPAP）.
The meeting （the 22nd NOWPAP-MERRAC Focal Points Meeting）also invited MERRAC to collaborate with similar centers established under other Regional Seas Programs, such as REMPEC in the Mediterranean and REMPEITC in the Caribbean.
MERRAC is also to assist IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in developing an operational guide on responding to HNS spills.